We all have magical powers inside of us. These powers allow us to travel the world in the blink of an eye, transform into someone or something else, and even fly…. It’s called our IMAGINATION! Children will often imagine being an animal or sailing a ship to the moon. Adults may daydream of fabulous vacations or new adventures. Mostly we envision something exciting and wonderful. But sometimes scary and unwanted events occur and our imaginations take us on an unwelcomed trip.
Let’s test your imagination muscles… Imagine yourself in a large building filled with lots of lights and noises. There are people walking around. Some of them notice you, some of them don’t. You’re led to a small room with a bed and given pajamas. People rush in and out of your room. Sometimes they look right past you, sometimes they touch you, and sometimes they hurt you. Everyone talks around you in a strange language. The only thing you can be certain of is that they are talking about you. Suddenly you realize that everyone around you is taller and stronger than you. Now stop. Did you feel safe in this scenario? Or did you feel vulnerable, uncertain, and powerless?
For many children this is how they view the hospital. As nurses and doctors enter the room with the goal of helping the child recover, they touch, poke, and inspect the child. All the while, talking to the adults present in medical terms that the child does not understand.
The child takes all the information they have gathered (these people are stronger than me and poke me with needles, and I heard the word “remove”). Then their imagination begins to swirl. “They are going to cut something off of me!”
Fear not, there is an antidote for this panic inducing imagination. Knowledge. By explaining to the child what will occur step by step in terms they understand, you are leading their imagination in a more accurate direction and calming their fears. Child Life Specialists are hospital workers that prepare children for procedures using pictures, dolls, and medical equipment. Children are encouraged to ask questions and be involved in their care. By giving them knowledge you are eliminating the unknown. By giving the child a task during the procedure, such as blowing bubbles, you are returning some of the control.
You don’t have to wait until there is an emergency. You can visit the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital website to learn ways to talk to your child about the hospital.
Let’s do another imagination exercise… Envision yourself as a child back in that building with the bright lights and loud noises. Picture a hospital where pediatric patients are acting like kids. Down the hall from your room is a playroom where other children are exploring. Visualize group activities that include creating, playing, music making, and your imagination. Imagine a place where your magical powers are encouraged to grow while you heal.