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Alleviating the fear and anxiety during a hospital stay

Illness, hospitalization and painful medical treatments can be very frightening and confusing for a child. The child life department at Advocate Children’s Hospital focuses on the emotional and developmental needs of children and their families. Using play and other forms of communication along with therapeutic activities such as art therapy and music therapy, we strive to reduce the stress associated with healthcare experiences and enable children and families to cope in a positive manner.

Our certified child life specialists are trained to:

  • Provide support, distraction and preparation for all types of procedures and tests.
  • Help normalize a child’s day by encouraging play, offering social activities and supporting continued growth and development.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate information to children, parents and siblings.
  • Offer emotional support and education to parents and siblings.

For patients and families:

Patient Education and Preparation

Our child life program is dedicated to guiding children and their families through the entire hospitalization process. Preparing for your child’s hospital stay can minimize stress for your whole family and provide comfort and reassurance to your child.

Packing for the hospital. We encourage parents to pack age-appropriate toys and games for children to play with during their hospital stay.

  • For infants, bring favorite pacifiers, lovies, blankets, rattles and toys.
  • For toddlers, pack favorite stuffed animals, blankets, books, toys or any other comforting transitional objects.
  • For preschoolers, bring books, puzzles, favorite stuffed animals, blankets or toys.
  • For school-aged children and teens, pack movies, music, hand-held video games, books, toys and homework.

Preparing for medical procedures. Facing a medical procedure can be daunting for both the children and their families. Our child life specialists help offset these fears by educating patients and families about what to expect. We provide a number of ways for children to better understand and cope with their care and the challenges they may face.

  • Pre-surgical tours: In an effort to minimize stress and uncertainty about a surgical procedure, our Park Ridge location provides pre-surgical tours for children and teens. During these tours patients and families can ask questions and get a feel for our facilities.
  • Hospital scrapbook: When children are admitted to the hospital in our Park Ridge location, they receive their own “My Hospital Scrapbook.” This book teaches our young patients about medical care and helps them prepare for their upcoming procedures. The book also serves as a support during their hospital stay and provides a journal for self-expression.

Hands-on education. During their hospital stay, children may get an IV, have blood drawn, and/or undergo several procedures and tests. To alleviate fear and ease anxiety, our child life specialists will help guide children and their families through these procedures with compassion.

  • Our child life specialists help prepare your child using special explanation books, dolls and real medical equipment.
  • Members of our staff discuss what is going to happen and address any questions in an easy-to-understand, child-friendly manner.
  • The team ensures that your child is comfortable and has everything he/she needs before and after a procedure.
  • If requested, a child life specialist will accompany your child during the test or procedure and provide distraction and relaxation.

Art TherapyAs a part of the child life program, our art therapists provide one-on one and group interventions to all impatient units including rehabilitation, oncology and pediatric intensive care. In addition, art therapy also provides services for patients and their families within the pediatric outpatient oncology clinic as well as outpatient therapy groups. Our art therapists use art as an outlet for expression and healing. Art therapy makes use of the visual side of the brain that expresses unconscious feelings through images instead of relying solely on words.

Music Therapy. Music therapy is the systematic use of music by a trained professional to improve, maintain, or restore the physical, mental, or emotional functioning of patients. A board certified music therapist in the hospital setting is a member of the interdisciplinary team, working alongside medical and clinical staff to develop an individualized plan of care for patients.

H.O.P.E School ProgramThe H.O.P.E. School Program is committed to providing educational support to all school age patients ages 5 to 18. We strive to provide a sense of normalcy and consistency in touch with our patients' daily routines while staying within Advocate Children's Hospital- Oak Lawn. We want to provide a rich learning environment that is filled with trust, care, concern and respect in assisting all our patients and their families.

It has been known that while hospitalized, many children succumb to a great deal of stress over falling behind in their school work. Keeping school as a fundamental part of each child's life is our main goal here at Advocate Children's Hospital.

Thanks to our H.O.P.E. School Program, kids can continue that sense of "normalcy" in their lives. We know the importance of education in a child's life and want to help keep their routine as consistent and stress free as possible.

Tutoring. School is a major part of a child’s life. When a child is in the hospital, it can interrupt the normal pattern of schooling. The hospital tutoring program in Park Ridge addresses this concern by providing services that can provide a normal routine and encourage children to continue learning in the hospital.

The program serves inpatient children who are enrolled in kindergarten to 12th grade. Patients are eligible for hospital and homebound tutoring services if they anticipate being absent from school for 10 days or more. The 10 days of absence can be consecutive or add up to 10 days throughout the school year. Hospital tutors are certified with a teaching degree and patients receive attendance credit for each tutoring session completed. These services are free of charge to the family. For more information about hospital tutoring, call 847.723.4569.

Find out more information about your child’s hospital stay.

Play and Therapeutic Activities

Play is a natural part of a child’s life, benefiting children physically and emotionally. The child life program at Advocate Children’s Hospital strives to help normalize children’s days through play activities, while also allowing our pediatric patients to enjoy being a kid despite being stuck in a hospital. Find out more about our activities and programs. 

Teen Programs

When teenagers are faced with a health challenge and hospitalization, they have their own unique needs. Our separate teen life program at our Park Ridge location offers support to our teen patients, aged 10-21. This program is designed to meet the specific developmental needs of adolescents, while also encouraging emotional expression and social interaction. Find out about the activities and programs available through our teen life program. 

Bereavement and Grief Support

The child life program at Advocate Children’s Hospital provides support, even in families' darkest hours.

  • We provide a number of resources and support services to help patients and their families cope with the loss of a loved one.
  • Learn how children and teens experience grief and how to help them through this difficult time.
  • Books and resources that can help families cope with loss.
Meet Our Team

Our dedicated, compassionate staff is trained in child development, education and psychology. All of our child life specialists have achieved professional certification through the National Child Life Council.

Meet our team of child and teen life specialists as well as music therapists and art therapist. 

To learn more about the child life profession, visit the National Child Life Council.

For volunteers/students/community:

Support Child Life

Child and Teen Life programs and activities are supported by generous contributions from community members, organizations and area businesses.

Holiday Donations

Donations. Gift donations are greatly appreciated and help make a child’s or adolescent’s hospital stay more comfortable and pleasant. To get the most out of your special involvement, please read our gift donations guidelines and suggestions. To speak with a child life specialist directly about a donation in Park Ridge, please call 847.723.PLAY (7529) and select option #1. To speak with a child life specialist directly about a donation in Oak Lawn, please call 708.684.4142 and select option 1.

If you have any questions regarding donations, please call:

Oak Lawn Campus: 708.684.4142 option #1
Park Ridge Campus: 847.723.7529

Volunteer. Volunteering at a children’s hospital is a challenging yet rewarding experience. Volunteers touch children’s lives and make invaluable contributions. In return, volunteers receive the personal gratification of knowing they’ve made someone’s life brighter.

To find out more about how you can volunteer at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, please contact Nicole Lennie Coordinator of Child Life Volunteer Services at 708.684.4142 and select option #2. An online application can be filled out here.

To find out more about how you can volunteer at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, please contact the Park Ridge child life department at 847.723.PLAY (7529). An online application can be filled out here.

Please understand that both campuses have specific age requirements for becoming a volunteer. If you have questions, please call appropriate site to see if you would be a candidate for volunteering.

Community visitors. Visitors and special performers help brighten children’s and teenager’s days when they are in the hospital. Our child life program welcomes special community visitors. Find out how your involvement can help children and families find joy during a hospital stay. 

Special programming. In addition to our usual programs and activities, child life hosts special events and entertainment for our young patients. These programs are made possible by generous donations. Find out more about special programming through child life. 

Community outreach. The child life program is present at various community events, with interactive child life booths for children and teenagers. Find out more about our community outreach efforts. 

Student Internships with Child Life

Child life internships at Advocate Children’s Hospital provide a comprehensive child life experience that provides opportunities aimed at developing professional excellence. The goal of our program is for interns to assume the role and responsibilities of a child life specialist and make the successful transition from student to specialist.

The child life program offers internships in the spring, summer and fall. We also offer internships in music therapy and art therapy. Find out more about the child life internship programs