Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, you find your pediatric patient better able to cope with their medical issue than their parents.  Many times, parents bring their own prior medical experiences, coping skills, and beliefs about the medical event with them to their child's hospital visit, such as the actual or perceived life-threat to their child, the impact of the injury/illness on the child/family/future, and how best to protect their child from further danger.  These beliefs will determine the parent's coping ability during and after their child's medical event. Some parents could exhibit more maladaptive beliefs, such as their dreams for their child were shattered or that nobody can understand what they're experiencing. Other parents may show adaptive coping beliefs, such as using humor. Frequently, parents and families will use a mix of both.

As a healthcare provider, you can help parents (and children) reframe their distressing beliefs to cope better in four simple steps:

1.) Accept the uncontrollable:

Provider: "In every situation, there are things that we cannot control. Sometimes, the uncontrollable is difficult to acknowledge or accept. What are some aspects of the situation that you feel you can't control?"

Parent: "Even though it's upsetting, my child needs to go through potentially painful treatment in order to get better."

2.) Focus on the controllable:

Provider: "Ok, you can't control the potentially painful treatment, but what aspects of that situation can you control?"

Parent: "I can still do things to comfort and take care of my child and myself during treatment."

3.) Identify and acknowledge your strengths:

Provider: "What strengths do you have that you can use to help comfort and take care of your child and yourself?"

Parent: "I can take each treatment one day at a time. I will remind myself and my child that with each treatment, we are one step closer to healing."

4.) Find / use the positive aspects of the situation:

Provider: "Is there anything positive that you have learned about yourself that you can apply to this situation?"

Parent: "I didn't realize how strong my child is. Seeing how strong my child is makes me stronger as a parent."

In your practice, how do you help patients and their parents cope effectively?