Effects of Illness on Preschool Children
Infants learn mainly through their senses and by interacting with both objects and other human beings. Familiar objects and people provide feelings of security that are important to preserve during treatment. Separation from the mother and the experience of pain and discomfort or denial of food and warmth due to treatment or procedures can be upsetting to your child. Treatment can also get in the way of opportunities to practice motor skills, such as crawling, sitting and standing and may slow child's development for a period of time.
- Surrounding the infant with familiar toys, blankets or family members can provide reassurance and comfort. Maintaining a routine whenever possible can help reduce the child's anxiety.
- Child life specialists in the hospital can provide appropriate bedside or playroom activities to help promote your child’s growth while confined to the hospital crib.
- Consistent involvement from parents and familiar family members is essential in promoting trust, particularly since infants have a limited understanding of the cancer experience but are keenly aware of their unfamiliar environment.
Toddlers enter a stage of greater independence and an ability to do more things for themselves. Maintaining familiar patterns and routines can help them carry on with their independence. The frequent medications required for a child in this age category are particularly challenging, and can cause a show of negative reactions and resistance. Physical confinement also makes it difficult for a child who is used to constant activity and exploring his or her environment.
- Hospital playrooms provide a safe environment where children can play as they can at home, and become more relaxed and less fearful. This can help improve their overall to cope and adjust to the illness.
- Playroom staff are trained professionals in child development, psychology or social work who can assess the child’s behavior and provide appropriate interventions. For instance, "medical play" can provide a sense of mastery for the child who often finds him- or herself in a helpless situation.
- Visits with siblings or playmates, if permitted by the hospital, can help maintain a connection with home, and provide reassurance and a sense of normalcy.
Reprinted with the permission of CureSearch. © 2005 CureSearch
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