Child using bubbles and toy for distraction in action

Distraction coach

We know it’s difficult seeing your child in pain, but you can reduce distress by becoming a distraction coach. As a distraction coach, you refocus your child’s attention away from the procedure and toward something fun — a toy, a book, a video game, or even a silly conversation. Try to be a distraction coach for your child.

  • Make a plan to try distraction.
  • Start distracting your child before the procedure begins.
  • Focus your child’s attention on something other than the procedure.

Use clear and direct language with your child’s care team.

  • Tell them, “I want to support my child during this procedure by trying to focus their attention on ____ (for example: these toys or books, this app).”
  • Tell them you want to be close to your child during the procedure.
  • Ask them to decrease stimulation (for example: lighting, noise, side conversations) during the procedure.
  • Offer to hold your child in a comfort position, such as having your child sit on your lap facing outward or chest-to-chest.

Pick toys, books, apps, or conversation topics that will hold your child’s attention.

  • Use your phone or another device to provide distraction with the recommended apps. Remember to load apps for distraction before the procedure. 

If you don’t have a phone with you, ask a nurse if there are toys or books nearby that you could borrow.

Before the procedure, get your child involved in the distraction.

  • Show your own interest in the distraction items.

If your child prefers to look away from the procedure, use something to block your child’s view of the procedure, such as a smartphone or book.

  • Let your child take quick peeks if they want to know what is going on.

During the procedure, stay focused on your role as a distraction coach.

  • Look at your child, not the procedure.
  • Talk to your child about the items being used for distraction.

girl with butterfly toy and her mother, distraction in action

Try to keep your child’s attention. If you lose it, work to get it back.

  • Give your child specific prompts, such as:
    • “Can you find that object?”
    • “Touch here and see what happens.”
    • “Breathe in, blow out.”

Avoid saying things such as “It’s OK.”

  • From your child’s point of view, being scared or hurt is not OK.
  • Saying things like “It’s OK” can lead to more distress behaviors.

Avoid unclear standards for success (such as praising them for acting like a big girl or boy).

  • “Great job trying to win that game with me!”
  • “I like how you took deep breaths during the scary part.”