Coaching Language in Paediatrics

Acknowledge the positive, ignore the negative
My son was in hospital recently to have an operation. The children's hospital was absolutely fantastic. We went on a visit first to see the ward and Chico the puppet showed us all the steps that the children would go through to get a general anesthetic. The ward had a play area complete with video games and lots of books and toys too. The staff went out of their way to make the environment and experience as stress free as possible for the children. 
As part of this there was a play therapist on the ward to come round and spend time with the children and be with the kids and parents on the way to the operating theatre. She was a really lovely lady and she really wanted to help the kids and families through their day. I noticed very quickly however that her interactions often brought my son right down. 
My son suffers from anxiety and he was understandably really scared about the operation. My husband and I were focusing on building his confidence. We were keeping him occupied and praising him.  He was doing really well, looking relaxed and calm. 
However, each time the ‘Play Therapist’ came over he would become scared and his mood would plummet. She asked him questions like "what are you most scared about?" and "you look much less scared now - on a scale of 1 to 10 how scared were you when you came in? And how scared are you now?"
Now her intention was entirely positive. She really wanted to help the kids feel comfortable. She clearly loved her job and was really focused on the children and making the experience a good one for them. However, the result of some of her interactions was the complete opposite of her intentions. Her questions about ‘being scared’ were encouraging the children to think about ‘being scared’ and to answer these well intentioned questions, my son had to consider being scared and how scared he was.   Inadvertently, she turned their focus to his fear and brought his mood down. 
To me, this was a great illustration of why we keep the focus on the positive as coaches. My son’s reaction is the reason that we do not ask our coaches to focus on the negatives. 
It reminded me how important our language is and the power that words have to affect our mood. This lovely article looks at the use of language in sports coaching and the power of positivity, and gives some lovely thoughts on how to frame language.
My sons experience would have been different, and my job as a mum a little easier, if the play therapist had reflected the positive to him. If she had talked about how good it would be after the operation, about the toast he would get later. About the really cool toys that they have and what fun he could have playing with them. 
Luckily he had me and his Dad to bring his mood up.  We used wonderful coaching behaviours with him and supported him to feel as positive as he could. 
The operation was a complete success!!
Thanks for reading
Fiona xx