Child Life

Mighty Blog

Tips from Child Life for using minimally threatening language

To communicate accurate, complete information that is developmentally appropriate

Child Life

Join us in celebrating Child Life Week, March 21-25: Child Life is on your team. Child life professionals work in many areas of Children’s Minnesota to help children and families navigate their health care experiences.

As part of the medical team, child life professionals use their unique skills to promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expressive activities.

Use language that is clear rather than ambiguous

Ambiguous Clearer
Gas, sleeping gas, put under, knocked out Medicine air, called anesthesia, that you breathe through a small mask for the anesthesia sleep so you do not feel anything during surgery
PACU (pack you in?) Wake-up/recovery room
Take you to the floor (where’s the bed?) Hospital bedroom
Take your blood pressure (remove blood?) Measure, or check your blood pressure


Use language that is soft rather than hard

Harder Softer
Pain, hurt, sting, owie Sore, pressure, uncomfortable, ache, scratchy
Burn Warm feeling, sensation
Cut, open up, slice, hole Opening, incision
Shot (like a gun) Poke, medicine through a small needle/syringe
Bad tasting medicine Medicine that tastes different


Use language that is familiar rather than unfamiliar

Unfamiliar Familiar
Incision Small opening
Intravenous, I.V. Tiny tube or medicine straw that goes into a vein
Anesthesia (not Anastasia) Medicine air you breathe for surgery sleep
CT, CAT scan (are there cats?) A large camera that takes pictures of your ____.
Stretcher (stretch who?) Bed with wheels and side rails


We work with children and adolescents to minimize the stress children can feel during hospital stays and other health care visits.

Madeline Riggs