If you are parent/caregiver of a child with medical complexity, perhaps preparing to return home after a long hospitalization, then it may seem ironic to think of your child as being strong but this is exactly the truth. Your child has probably already experienced all kinds of challenges (eg, having procedures, blood tests, x-rays, lots of examinations, infections, etc) and has managed to survive and grow in spite of all of this. Rather than focusing on your child’s handicaps or weaknesses, consider focusing on his/her strengths; this will support your child in a positive way.

It is especially important to recognize your child’s strengths during procedures or treatments at home or elsewhere. This can help your child adapt to the treatment with a sense of personal accomplishment, even pride! When children (or adults) feel good about themselves, they are happier and less stressed.

We do know that sometimes it is hard to recognize your child’s strengths, especially when your child needs a lot of care, when you are tired or if you are juggling many different responsibilities (for eg, raising other children, working, etc). Here are some examples of how children can show their strengths. Which ones does your child demonstrate?

 


Child's strengthsWhat it is?

Adaptable, Flexible
To be resilient

This is a great thing! That is the ability to overcome obstacles, to recover from challenges, to change and to learn new things.
eg, Your child may experience discomfort with a treatment but is willing to try another technique of distraction the next time.


Courage

Ability to face difficult situations, without losing self-control.
eg, Your child may feel afraid during a procedure but is staying still so that the care can be completed safely.


Survival instinct

Capacity to fight to survive even under medically challenging circumstances.


Calmness and self-regulation

Ease of seeing new situations positively and without excessive anxiety.
It’s easy to panic in stressful situations; a strong child is able to find calmness and positivity.
eg, Your child chooses an effective technique of distraction or uses controlled breathing to stay calm.


Autonomy

Ability to take care of one’s self and to make decisions. Even young children seek out this strength. Children can build autonomy by making realistic choices.
eg, Your child makes “sensible choices” and thus participates in the required treatment rather than passively receiving the therapy.


To be good (skilled) at…

To demonstrate skill in a particular activity.
eg, Your child is asked to stay in a specific position to receive care and does so well even if he/she feels some discomfort.


To be curious

To show interest in new items or situations.
eg, A young baby looks at and reaches for a new toy that is being used for distraction.


Alertness, to pay attention

Ability to learn, understand, remember and to reason (think/behave with logic).
eg, An adolescent notices that a care practice is being delivered differently and mentions it to the care provider, improving the safety of care.


Creativity

Ability to use imagination, either as a coping/comfort tool or to understand the situation/environment more clearly.
eg, A young child uses guided imagery to better tolerate a challenging treatment.


Dreamer

Skill in entering into an imaginary world through play, to explore, learn and overcome difficulties.
eg, A child effectively uses medical play and is then less anxious about a necessary treatment.


Communicator

Ability to effectively communicate needs and emotions, verbal or nonverbal.
eg, A young child cries to let the parent know that he/she is experiencing pain.


Demonstrates compassion

Ability to consider how it feels to be in someone else’s situation.
eg, In medical play situation, a young child remarks that the teddy bear “patient” is unhappy because it needs another procedure.


Positive self-esteem

Ability to have a positive sense of self and to take pride in one’s own accomplishments.
eg, An adolescent helps take responsibility for his/her ostomy care without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.


Demonstrates affection and joy

Ability to receive and give affection, through words, vocalizations, facial expressions or gestures.