Earlier this year we published a blog about helping children (and their parents) through the anxiety of blood tests and other procedures. Coping with needle phobia – Childrens Liver Disease Foundation (childliverdisease.org)
We asked if any of you had your own tips and are delighted to share a couple here.
Julie said : “Music and music videos help my son, Blair. He loves The Masked Singer and all the characters. He has taught himself the words to all the songs by watching it on TV. So when we are going for a procedure I think he won’t like, he gets to choose what we listen to and I put the YouTube video on my phone, so he can see and hear it. It definitely takes his mind off what’s happening and he sings along. The nurses love it too, and when it’s all over he gets up and has a little dance!”
Music has also been a real theme for Sarah, who says: “We have been really fortunate that James’s bloods are now only monitored every six months for A1ATD. However, as he got older it was becoming more and more challenging – he is now 4. Despite the amazing staff, his loss of control in the situation and “having things done to him” left him stressed and overwhelmed. I had tried the surprise tactic and bribes but seeing him like this and revisiting the hospital where he had been so ill also made me feel really anxious and guilty.
“It was just after a particularly bad session that the CLDF shared some advice about blood tests. It talked about giving the young person a sense of control in the process and the need for parents and carers to be honest. Like so many, I had wanted to protect him from the whole thing but I thought it was worth trying. So, the next time we went, I casually talked to him the day before about exactly what would happen and why. From how we would get there, who would be there, where he would get the “special numbing cream“, the fact I would be there all the time and most importantly, what would happen afterwards – ie everything would be the same. I gave him back some control by offering choices. For example, would he like me to hold his hand when we walk in? Would he like to sit in the big chair by himself or with me on my lap? What he would like from the cafe afterwards? And for James, the most important thing, what music he would like me to play on my phone?
“He asked some really interesting questions in the run up – where does the blood go, what do they do with it, do I get more blood and will it hurt? For the first time, I answered it all honestly. Yes- it will hurt but just for a second.
“The guilt I felt at subjecting him to the process quickly turned to a feeling that I was actually doing a better job in looking after him and making him more resilient and giving him strategies to cope. Much to everyone in Phlebotomy’s amusement, he chose Mr Blue Sky by ELO – all the nurses were singing along. The sense of control and familiarity of the music in an unknown environment seemed to work. He was calm and in control…and I felt calmer too.
“I realise that all children are different and this may not work for everyone but hope this may give some ideas and, maybe, the courage to just be honest.”
Thank you so much Julie and Sarah for sharing your experiences with us. This is an issue which can cause a great deal of stress to parents and children and we’re more than happy to share anything which may help.
If you have any tips on managing procedural distress of any sort, we’d love to hear them. Please contact us at email@example.com