What does Child Life mean to you? We know some standard answers to this question. We can say, “Well, Child Life Specialists are play experts!” Or we can say, “Child Life is all about child development!” Or maybe even, “Child Life emphasizes positive experiences!”
And we’re right! All those answers are true. They all touch on some aspect of what Child Life is, but not quite on what it means to you personally.
Child Life means I have the opportunity to help a child face their fears in such a way that allows me to help them build positive coping skills. Skills that they will be able to use not only in their current situation, but also in the future. Child Life is about helping children express themselves through various outlets, like play. Child Life is about advocating for the patient and their family. Child Life is literally all about the child’s life. Not only the “here-and-now”, but also “down-the-road”.
My personal philosophy as it relates to the practice of child life is that “children are our future”. What I mean by this is that each child will contribute something unique and extraordinary to the world. I will help children be as successful as possible by providing them the skills they need to cope not only in their present situation, but also in any future situation. I will assist children in helping them learn how to express themselves through age-appropriate play activities. In providing positive experiences for children, I am giving them the tools they need to be successful and to believe in themselves.
I recall some of the activities I did as a young child. My mother was always getting on me about the holes in the knees of my pants because she couldn’t stop me from pretending to be a horse and running around on all fours. As I grew up, my pretend play experiences morphed into actual reality. I became involved in riding and competing with horses in the reining discipline with MRHA and NRHA. I realized as an adult just how much my play as a child affected the things I did in the future.
My past experiences have impacted much of my current personal philosophy of child life. The physical activities I engaged in a child have helped me better understand just how important an aspect that play is for a child’s development. Not only did I learn social skills, but I also learned various emotional skills from my pretend play scenarios with my friends. As a future child life specialist, these past play experiences are the perfect example of how play is so much more than just “play”. There is meaning behind the pretending. There is growth where you do not expect it.
I urge you to develop your own personal philosophy on what Child Life means to you. It will lift you up when you feel discouraged. And it will open your mind to greater possibilities. What does Child Life mean to you?