How to Help Your Child Stay Still During Medical Imaging

Medical imaging plays an essential role in CHD care. However, for parents, the thought of their child undergoing medical imaging can be a source of stress and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for children to feel scared or uneasy about the process, making it difficult for them to sit still and cooperate with the medical team. 

Tips and Tricks for Kids and Medical Imaging

Here are some strategies you can use to help your child cope and sit still during medical imaging from other CHD parents.

1. Explain the process

One of the most important things you can do is to explain the process to your child in an age-appropriate manner. When children have a clear understanding of what to expect, they are more likely to feel comfortable and relaxed during the procedure. Use simple language to describe what the imaging procedure will involve, how long it will take, and what the expected outcome will be. You can use visual aids such as pictures or diagrams to help your child understand the process better. The hospital’s child life specialist can be used to help with wording and visual aids. Consider reaching out to child life before the appointment.

Suggestion from other parents: Try practicing at home beforehand.

2. Bring a comfort item

Children often have comfort items such as a stuffed animal or blanket that they find reassuring. Bringing a comfort item to the appointment can help your child feel more secure and relaxed. The comfort item can serve as a distraction during the procedure and help your child focus on something other than the imaging.

Suggestion from other parents: Lie down next to your child, if possible. For babies, you can hold them, swaddle their arms, or feed them a bottle.

3. Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective way to encourage your child to sit still during medical imaging. Praise your child for their cooperation and offer rewards for good behavior. Rewards can be something as simple as a sticker or a favorite snack. The key is to make the reward something your child values and finds motivating.

Suggestions from parents: Try lollipops.

4. Provide distractions

Distractions can be an effective way to keep your child focused and calm during medical imaging. Bring a favorite toy, book, or game to the appointment to provide a distraction for your child. Many centers also have TVs or video players that can be used to distract children during the procedure. You can also schedule ahead to have the child life specialist bring distractions. Providing a distraction can help your child remain calm and still, making the imaging process easier for everyone involved.

Suggestions from parents: Bring fidget toys, glow sticks, bubbles, a tablet, movies. Make it a game to “freeze” for a certain amount of time.

5. Sedation

Sometimes the tools mentioned above just do not work and that is okay. Sedation can be another option for children who really struggle. There are different levels of sedation. If sedation is used, this will need to be planned in advance with your team. Depending on the level of sedation needed there will be a monitoring period after the imaging is complete.

With the right preparation and strategies, you can help your child remain calm and cooperative during what can be a daunting experience for children and parents alike. By explaining the process, providing comfort items, using positive reinforcement, providing distractions, and sedation, you can make the imaging experience a more comfortable and positive one for your child.

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