Anxiety-4Soothe your child. Once the procedure is over, soothing your child through hugs, gentle massage and calm talk helps recovery. Think about things that have worked to calm your child in the past (even if not related to medical procedures) and use them now. Some families have found it helpful to have a post-procedure ritual, something relaxing and enjoyable that they do together. This could be listening to good music, watching a favorite show or movie, reading fun magazines or anything your child would look forward to after getting through a tough procedure.

Be sure to point out how well your child did and heap on the praise. Many children have an opportunity to gain self-esteem and feelings of well being from their success. Your child should feel terrific about their accomplishment. You can also remind your child before the next procedure that they did such a great job last time and can do it again! Also, ask your child how much it hurt. If less than they anticipated, remind them of that before the next procedure.

Rewards. Getting procedures done can be challenging for some children. If this is the case for your child, be clear about your expectations. For example, you need to hold still. Or, you cannot kick the nurses. With clear goals in mind that your child understands, think about a small reward for their success. You help your child during the procedure and when they succeed, reward their efforts.

Is There Anything That I Should Avoid Doing?

Although many parents’ first response is to empathize with their child (“I know it hurts, baby”; “I’m so sorry you have to do this”), excessive reassurance and apologizing to your child can actually increase distress rather than soothe.4 These comments usually focus the child’s attention on their fear and pain, rather than encouraging the child to actively cope with the procedure. While some reassurance is okay, coaching your child to cope rather than only focusing on the pain helps lower your child’s distress.

What If These Strategies Don’t Work for My Child?

If your child is having a particularly hard time dealing with pain, talk to your doctors, nurses and support team members, like psychologists or child life specialists. Your hospital may even have pain specialists, though they may not be located within the cancer center. These professionals can work with you and your child to try additional strategies to manage your child’s pain and distress. If they teach your child a new strategy, ask them to teach you too, so that you can help your child use the strategy again.

4. Blount RL, Zempsky WT, Jaaniste T, et al. Management of pediatric pain and distress due to medical procedures. In: Roberts MC, Steele RG, eds. Handbook of Pediatric Psychology. 4th Ed. ed. New York: Guilford Press; 2009:171-188.

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