The Principle: Speaking to young children using quantitative terms, which are abstract and require a developmental level young children have not yet achieved, can create frustration. The medical community may want to avoid conceptual language and revert to a more concrete vocabulary.
To Our Friends in the Medical Community: A HYCL Team Member’s Account:
During a visit to the emergency room, I overheard a conversation between an ailing child and a physician. The doctor was trying to determine the cause of the child’s discomfort. He asked, “Does it hurt more here or here? What about here? More or less? Which hurts worse, here or here?” The conversation went on for a while, exhausting the child, the gentle doctor, and me. The reason for the communication challenge? Language.
Abstract verses concrete: Most young children do not understand the concepts of “more or less” and “most or least” until first or second grade. These quantitative terms are abstract and require a developmental level young children have not yet achieved. Therefore, when this emergency room child could not sort out which hurt more and which hurt less, he became frustrated.
When talking with a sick child, our friends in the medical profession may want to avoid conceptual language and revert to a more concrete vocabulary. When diagnosing pain, it may be more expedient to ask questions such as: “Is this a big hurt or a little hurt? Is this hurt bigger than this hurt? This small hurt, does it get bigger when I do this? …”
An assurance to parents:
When a child is sick, he will revert to an earlier stage of development. His emotional/mental age will temporarily become less than his chronological age. Language may deteriorate and baby talk resume. Insecurities and needs long since passed will surface again. The child may request a security blanket or other comfort item that may have been put away long ago. The good news is … it’s temporary.
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