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4 Ways to Help Children Cope with a Hospital Stay

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos.”

L.R. Knost

How Our Child Life Team Can Help You

The healthcare setting can be a scary and overwhelming place where stress and anxiety tend to hit a peak.

Teaching children and families coping skills is one of the several roles that the Certified Child Life Specialists at the UVM Children’s Hospital take on in their daily practice.

Child Life Specialists are specially trained to provide developmentally-appropriate therapeutic interventions to children and families experiencing stress.

Related: Helping put minds and hearts at ease in pediatrics

Interventions are adapted to meet the patient’s and family’s needs. What may be a successful resource for one child, may not work for the next.

Coping skills are important when navigating through a hospitalization or the hospitalization of a loved one.

Why Relaxation is Important

Relaxation is not about being lazy, rather it is about increasing one’s well-being. It helps to decrease stress levels and its effects on the mind and body.

Practicing relaxation and engaging in stress-reducing activities provides many benefits to the child and their family.

Relaxation Exercises for Children and Families

Here are just a few ways that our Child Life Specialists incorporate relaxation into their daily practice with children and their families.

These are all non-medicated techniques that may be altered to meet the patient where they are developmentally, physically and emotionally.

Guided imagery

Often interchangeably used with the term “guided meditation,” this relaxation technique focuses on imagination and use of the senses. Soothing sound or music may be applied alongside a script. One way our Child Life Specialists use guided imagery is during procedures as a form of distraction.


This is a gentle form of energy healing. Practitioner’s hands are placed just over or lightly touching the body. The goal is to promote healing, decrease symptoms and increase relaxation. A handful of our Child Life Specialists are Reiki II certified.

Deep breathing 

This is a wonderful way to reduce stress and anxiety. Use this simple and effective tool in the hospital and in any environment. Pinwheels, bubbles and Hoberman Spheres are some of the tools that our Child Life team uses to help teach and promote deep breathing.

Calming jars 

This therapeutic activity is a quick and easy project that can be made at home. There are a variety of ways to create calming jars. Personalization is always encouraged. Swirling around the contents of the jar and watching it settle to the bottom lets children focus on breathing and re-centering themselves, resulting in a sense of calm. Check out this link to create your own calming jars at home.

To learn more about the UVM Children’s Hospital Child Life program, visit

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