Hemby Children's Hospital

Coping skills
for children

Learn tips to help children cope

Patience and compassion can make difficult times manageable

A daily routine helps children set expectations and gives them reassurance about what is to come. An interruption in that routine can be disturbing, depending on how significant those changes are. Coping skills make small and larger changes easier. To cope is to successfully manage a difficult or challenging situation or set of events. The way a child copes in the hospital can be affected by:

  • Age
  • Past medical experiences
  • Family support
  • Understanding of diagnosis and hospitalization
  • Level of development
  • Other stressors

Common reactions for children in difficult situations

Anger and aggression: Frustration may be directed at family members and others unexpectedly when a child feels he has no control over a situation.
Crying: A natural emotional release.
Denial: Disbelief and shock that an event is happening.
Escape: Focuses on a specific activity to avoid a stressful situation or pretends the conditions do not exist.
Information seeking: Asks to know more about a situation in order to process and understand.
Play: Can be used as a release and distraction. Some children talk about feelings or re-enact real-life situations through play.
Rebellion: Reasserting independence in order to gain some control.
Regression: Returning to old routines or behaviors.
Selective silence: Choosing not to talk.
Submission: Becoming passive or withdrawn.

Child life services can help make coping easier

Sometimes the stress of hospitalization can affect coping skills. Coping strategies are unique for each person. While you may observe behaviors that are out of character for your child, he or she is working through a challenging time.

Child life specialists help patients and siblings develop positive coping skills, plans and techniques for facing challenging events. This type of support can help a child regain a feeling of control. Reactions that are out of character usually are brief and will lessen once your child feels more comfortable and secure with new routines.