How to support children to develop and express their coping preferences around minor invasive medical procedures: children’s and parents’ perspectives

Elisabeth W. Segers*, Marjolijn Ketelaar, Marjorie A.C.P. de Man, Lisette Schoonhoven, Elise M. van de Putte, Agnes van den Hoogen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Invasive medical procedures in hospitals are major sources of stress in children, causing pain and fear. Non-pharmacological interventions are indispensable in effective pain and fear management. However, these interventions must be personalized to be effective. This qualitative study aims to gain insight into children’s and parents’ experiences, needs, and wishes related to supporting children to develop and express their coping preferences for dealing with pain and fear during minor invasive medical procedures in order to decrease pain and fear. A qualitative study using thematic analysis was performed. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with children and parents who had undergone at least five minor invasive medical procedures in the last year. Nineteen children (8–18 years) and fourteen parents were interviewed individually. The experiences, needs, and wishes expressed in the interviews could be classified into one overarching theme, that of the personal process, and two content-related sub-themes: feeling trust and gaining control. The personal process was divided into two different phases, that of developing and of expressing coping preferences. Children and parents both reported it as a continuous process, different for every child, with their own unique needs. Children and parents expected personalized attention and tailored support from professionals. Conclusion: Professionals must combine clinical skills with child-tailored care. In the process of searching for and communicating about coping preferences, children’s unique needs and personal boundaries will thereby be respected. This gives children and parents increased trust and control during invasive medical procedures. What is Known: • Untreated pain and stress caused by medical procedures can have severe and important short- and long-term consequences for children. Personalized non-pharmacological interventions are an essential element of procedural pain management. What is New: • A personalized coping strategy is important for children when undergoing medical procedures. Each individual child has a personal way of expressing their own coping strategy. Children and their parents need information and the space to develop and express their individual coping preferences. • Children and parents expect to receive child-tailored care from professionals including respect for their own, unique needs and boundaries. Professionals should build trustful relationships and provide appropriately tailored autonomy around medical procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5553-5563
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number12
Early online date3 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Children
  • Coping preferences
  • Distress
  • Empowerment
  • Medical procedures
  • Pain


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