For many healthcare practitioners, Telehealth has become a way of life. But, while appointments with adults are reasonably straightforward as long as there’s a good internet connection, it can be more complicated to keep a child engaged for the full length of a Telehealth appointment.
Practitioners are innovating in finding ways to adopt Telehealth, and there are many articles that cover how to make the transition successfully. Unfortunately, you can’t treat Telehealth consultations with children like you do with adults, and there aren’t many resources with practical solutions for making Telehealth with kids a rewarding experience. We’re sharing some simple tips and Telehealth activities for kids that you can use along with Power Diary’s Telehealth feature to help you run successful sessions with younger clients.
Why Do Children Respond Differently to Telehealth?
While COVID-19 seems to have eased slightly, it’s still very much present worldwide, and Telehealth has become a new normal. Using Power Diary’s practice management system is a positive step towards taking your practice online. This new digital world may be incredibly convenient for adults who no longer have to leave the house, but Telehealth can be challenging for kids.
It’s a generally accepted guideline that children can concentrate for two to five minutes for every year of their lives. On the other hand, adults have usually developed the skills to engage actively for longer periods. So, your challenge lies in creating an engaging space for kids with as little distraction as possible.
Another consideration is that, depending on your field, children (particularly some older children and teens) may not feel comfortable disclosing certain information in front of family members. Unlike adults, children may not be afforded the privilege of privacy for their at-home sessions. If you need a private session with the child, you may need to engage with their parents or guardian beforehand to ensure an appropriate setting where the child feels comfortable engaging.
As we know, the pandemic has had a psychological impact on people of all ages, negatively impacting physical and mental health. While adults may speak openly about their problems, children may not be as forthcoming, especially through a digital platform, and you’ll need to be more alert for signs that could indicate depression or mental health concerns.
While working with children via Telehealth may be challenging, there are some positive ways to make the appointment easier for you and your client.
How to Make the Telehealth Experience Easier for Kids
Create a Safe Environment
Request in advance that your client’s parent or guardian set up a space for the child where the phone, webcam, or laptop is propped up, and they can engage in Telehealth activities for kids with little distraction. When setting up your own space and background, try to keep it as clean and neutral as possible so that there are fewer distractions for children to see on your side of the screen.
To ensure that the young client can see your facial expression, try to maintain eye contact throughout, instead of looking down to take notes. Depending on your camera position, this may mean looking up from your screen and making eye contact with the camera itself.
Build Rapport with the Child
If your appointment requires worksheets or other visual aids, consider designing the activity with their favourite colours and images of their favourite things to improve engagement.
Brush up on your acting skills, as children will respond well to exaggerated expressions, enthusiastic, positive affirmations, and thumbs up. Children tend to be more open and involved if they feel appreciated and seen.
Use summaries, reflections, and observations frequently to remind your young client that you are listening. This will also encourage connection and mutual communication.
Use the opportunity to ask younger children about their favourite aspects of home, such as toys, books, and blankets. As long as these things are pertinent to clinical activities and do not cause disruption, encourage youngsters to bring their drawings up close to the camera to explain them.
For older children, see whether they have anything to contribute in the form of art, writing, music, or something else. If applicable, you could introduce other online resources such as YouTube to engage them and build rapport.
Depending on the type of Telehealth services you offer, you may find that children and teens would also enjoy learning more about you. Consider playing a brief question-and-answer game to share information about yourself and gather information on your client. These questions can be simple, like ‘what is your favourite colour’ and can be used as an icebreaker at the beginning of a session. This could be in the form of a casual chat with the client before the official session begins. Even over Telehealth, these seemingly simple exercises have been shown to lay the foundations for a good, productive relationship as well as provide some important insights into your young client.
Telehealth Activities for Kids to Keep Them Engaged
The way to keep kids excited about future Telehealth appointments is for them to associate sessions with you as a fun activity in their schedule.
Here are three fantastic icebreakers to start your appointment on a positive note:
- Show and Tell – This is a fantastic technique for children at home because they enjoy showing off their special things. Tell them they have one minute to gather something from their house before returning to tell you all about it. You may also want to each have a turn sharing something special from your home.
- Name, Place, Animal, Thing – This popular game is enjoyable in a Telehealth session. Allow your client to select a letter. Each of you must name a well-known person, a location, an animal, and something that starts with that letter—the player who writes them all down first wins.
- Pictionary – Encourage the client to draw anything on paper that has a story behind it or is meaningful to them.
While Telehealth with kids can be challenging, planning ahead can make a big difference. If you understand the unique challenges that come with conducting Telehealth sessions with kids and teens, you can take steps to make the session productive and enjoyable by creating a safe environment and building rapport at the beginning (and throughout) the course of your sessions.
Power Diary’s clinic management software with built-in Telehealth functionality takes the stress out of the technical side, so you can focus on providing your young clients with an exceptional and professional experience.