For many child life specialists, there is a lightbulb moment. A moment when someone describes the role of a child life specialist and that’s the moment they decide that this is the path they want to pursue. Over time, this path has become more and more challenging. I completed my internship in the spring of 2016 and it has become progressively more challenging. These challenges were amplified during the pandemic. It exposed a lot of the issues we have with the pathway and has forced many students to wonder, is this all worth it?
This answer is going to vary for each individual person but I’d like to share my personal experience on this question.
I’m a millennial, I have parents in the boomer generation and things have changed so much in education and the workforce. Child life appears very niche on the surface. So, when I graduated with a perfectly respectable degree from a large university, my parents were utterly confused as to why I wanted to move 1000 miles away and take out loans to pursue a master’s degree in something so specific. It was hard to describe at the time, but something in my gut told me that this was the field for me.
I have now been certified for 7 years and I wouldn’t change it for anything. This field is tough and it takes a lot of sacrifice. But, I have found community, strength, creativity, and passion regardless of where I’ve worked. Whether it is teaching creative activities at the technical college, hosting guest speakers through the child life circle, or preparing the MRI protocol for my new job at the research lab I have found that my passion and my skills are recognized. I bring a unique perspective to meetings and other groups.
When I see other specialists branching out and trying something new, it gives me hope. Our field is in the thick of it right now, I know that. I hear it from students and professionals every day.
Choosing Not to Pursue Child Life is Not Quitting
While I want this post to provide you with some hope and inspiration, I also want to provide you with the validation and support to change direction. This path is unnecessarily difficult and becoming certified is not a path that everyone has the privilege to take. There are so many amazing jobs out there that will allow you to work with children and families to help provide coping and support in challenging times. If I’ve learned anything in the past 7 years it’s that what you learn in this degree and in working with children is so useful to so many organizations. You will find your place. It’s not giving up, it’s pivoting in order to preserve your passion.
As you reflect on your goals for 2024, I hope that you take all of this into consideration. What do you want to accomplish? How do you plan to accomplish it? Is child life certification truly your end goal or is the end goal to be able to support families? Really consider the deep drive and reasoning for your ultimate goal.
Need help? Reach out. There are so many helpers out there, you just have to be brave enough to look!
Here is to 2024 and another year of supporting children and families in my community!