PARTICIPATION: Talking to Kids and Teens - Guidelines for Health Care Providers

Summary: Health care professionals should give children and teens the opportunity to understand their health issues and share their thoughts.

1. Start early  
Children and teens believe that participation needs to start early. Even young children should have opportunities to understand what is going on and to share their thoughts.

2. Be sensitive to their developmental level
Children’s ability to understand health issues will vary with age and experience. As a general rule, use simple and clear language at all times.

3. “Check in” often
Checking in regularly ensures that children are given the opportunity to participate over the course of their treatment. Although children have a right to participate, they should never be forced to do so. Providing children with options will give them a sense of autonomy and control over the situation.

4. Be a good listener
Make eye-contact and give them your full attention – it only takes a few seconds! Where possible, address children directly. Communicating only with parents makes children feel less involved.

5. Recognise and assess their knowledge
Children with a chronic condition are often quite knowledgeable about their health. Find out if they want to learn more about their condition. Doing so will allow them to be involved in the decision-making.

6. Be open and honest
Children prefer adults were honest with them, even with difficult subject matters. Being informed can build trust with the adults around them and prevent unpleasant “surprises”.

7. Collaboration is important
Children and teens rely heavily on the adults and health care professionals around them to help with decision-making. Research shows that a shared and collaborative model of decision-making ensures the best outcomes for the child and family.   

8. Strategies for Coping with Procedures
Allow children and teens to choose activities during medical procedures that will distract their attention and minimise pain.

Based on findings from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Study. 

Owner: Donna Koller, PhD


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