Graduate Admissions Blog

Child Life Specialists: Making Meaning in Troubled Times

Genevieve Lowry and Deborah Vilas
Genevieve Lowry and Deborah Vilas

How we approach challenging events in our lives can determine our ability to move forward and find meaning in adversity. For children, meaning is often found in play, art, music, and movement. It is found in the relationships with others that are willing to journey alongside that child, holding space for grief, sadness, anger, or joy. 

During the pandemic, Child Life Specialists found themselves reimagining their roles as they explored both old (phones) and new (virtual) ways to connect with and support children and families affected by the pandemic. Discovering new ways to provide medical preparation, ease separation anxiety, build relationships, and discover family strengths pushed their creative spirits to the growing edges. While the pandemic may have highlighted the ways Child Life Specialists stepped up to support children and families, in reality, it is what Child Life Specialists have always done.

When we imagine a career for ourselves, finding joy and meaning in our work is something that many of us have always longed for. Living through a pandemic may also have brought us to a place where we are questioning our life choices and asking ourselves: Is there something more for me out there? We all listened as the pandemic brought issues of race, social injustice, and inequity to the forefront. COVID-19 statistics revealed what so many knew already—that there are huge gaps in equity and accessibility to healthcare in the United States. 

Child Life Specialists use their training in child development, medical environments, and therapeutic play to assist children and their families as they navigate stressful life challenges, such as hospitalization, chronic illness, special healthcare needs, and loss. In hospitals and community settings, Child Life Specialists help children:

  • Understand what is happening to their bodies
  • Prepare for diagnostic tests and treatments they will encounter
  • Learn coping skills for the medical tests, procedures, and treatments
  • Participate in developmentally appropriate play and expressive arts activities
  • Use strengths-based approaches in order to celebrate cultural wealth and decrease bias and inequity

Child Life Specialists work in inpatient units, clinics, diagnostic units, emergency rooms, and operating rooms, as well as in private practice in the community. Applying principles of family-centered care, they empower parents to act as advocates for their children. Child Life Specialists use evidence-based interventions to mitigate trauma and empower children and families to be proactive participants in their treatment. 

If you have a pioneering spirit and want to work with children and families in meaningful ways, if advocacy for marginalized populations is something that you consider important, you might wish to consider a career in the field of Child Life. Bank Street Graduate School of Education offers a comprehensive master’s degree program in Child Life. Accredited by the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP), the two-year online cohort program will prepare you to work with children and families of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of healthcare settings. The program’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focus will provide you with the knowledge and tools to make a difference in the quality of care provided to pediatric patients and their families. 

For more information, visit our program page, sign up for ongoing communication with our Admissions team, or attend an online Child Life Program Open House.