Welcome to our guest blog page where passion and inspiration coincide. Here Child Life Specialists and Students have the opportunity to share their love for writing with their peers.

If you or anyone you know has a passion for writing and would be interested in being one of our guest bloggers, please email Kristin Brown, FACLP Website Coordinator at webmaster@faclp.org

August 2020

We would like to introduce…

My name is Sydney Ehinger and I am a child life student! I was born and raised in Greensboro, NC and Just graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May with degrees in Psychology and Anthropology. I will be attending the University of Georgia this fall to pursue my MS in Child Life. I’m very excited to start this next step in my child life journey. In my free time you can find me enjoying a good cup of coffee, practicing yoga, reading, or walking my dogs!

Finding the Beauty in the Journey

“So…what’s your child life story?”

I often find myself asking this of fellow child life students and child life specialists I meet, maybe with a bit too much enthusiasm. But I am genuinely excited to learn about individual how someone got to where they are today, and where they’re going in the future, mainly because you’ll get a vastly different answer from each person you ask.

There’s no doubt everyone’s child life path has its messy moments. My own decision to officially pursue a career in the field didn’t come about until my senior year of college. I had been volunteering frequently with children who are medically vulnerable and realized I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I decided that child life was where I could best provide psychosocial support to children and their families. So at the last minute I said the 4 words every college senior thinks at least once during their final year: how about graduate school?

In every child life blog, in child life podcasts, in social media pages, and even in interviews I hear about different professional specialties, different philosophies of child life, and, my personal favorite, different educational backgrounds. My undergraduate career was not child life related. My degrees are in psychology and anthropology, with a minor in medical anthropology as I originally planned on pursuing clinical psychology. Not once did any of my undergraduate classes specifically talk about child life practices and, in a way, I actually see this as beneficial to my future role as a child life specialist. One of my favorite aspects of academia is simply learning through diversity of thought. In class discussions we bring our own experiences and backgrounds to the table and through this collaboration we grow as students and professionals. I firmly believe understanding, hearing, and processing new perspectives helps students grow as aspiring child life specialists. In a field where we constantly work with those from all types of backgrounds with all types of medical conditions, new ideas are not only refreshing, but also necessary for our professional development as a whole. While changing from a clinical psychology career path to one in child life is not necessarily drastic, I still appreciate having a basis in fields beyond child life courses as I prepare to start my MS in Child Life program this fall. I come to the table with ideas that aren’t identical to my peers and vice versa. And that is an environment I know I will truly grow in and ultimately thrive in.

Being a child life student during the COVID-19 outbreak and the ongoing chaos of mask debates, social distancing, and transitions to a virtual world has definitely turned my life upside down. I did not get the end to my senior year in the way I thought I would. But I realize I am grateful for the time I have been given to reflect on my path to child life so far. These days we are constantly reading emails opening with well wishes during “these trying times” and “during this period of uncertainty” to a point where one could say they’ve become cliché. Some days I feel considering life during a global pandemic to be “trying” is an understatement. We have been forced to adapt to a socially distant world so quickly. While working through these sudden changes, I’ve found quarantine has taught me to learn to go with the flow, a skill I know is important in working with children, especially in the hospital setting. I have learned to be creative in my continued learning to find online volunteer opportunities in places I previously would not have even considered. In the process I realized I can use my reinvigorated and unique skill set to find ways to support my future patients in the most effective way possible.

Becoming a child life specialist is a journey. Navigating the world as a student in the time of a pandemic is a journey, and even just navigating life itself is a journey. My experiences and my educational background will likely be vastly different from my future co-workers and peers. That is one of the primary reasons I love child life. Our training looks the same in many ways, but we still have the ability to draw on our different background and experiences to, as I like to say, “keep the tiny humans playing.”

So the next time you’re at a conference, retreat, or wherever you find yourself in a post-COVID-19 world and you meet another member of our field, be sure to ask “what’s your child life story?” You won’t be disappointed you did.

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