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As a parent of a child facing a medical challenge, it can be tempting to try to put on as many hats as possible: mom/dad, caregiver, nurse, and sometimes even a medical expert.

We often hear doctors ask patients not to Google a diagnosis, but seeking out as much information as possible in the face of a challenge can feel like regaining some control. However, the problem is that carrying all this information can take parents away from their primary role of just being parents.

That’s why Family-Centered Care, an approach that aims to help parents feel supported and empowered throughout their family’s medical journey, is so important.

I’m delighted to introduce you to Jenny Berchtold. Jenny is a certified Child Life Specialist with a master’s degree in Child Development and a specialization in infancy. Jenny has worked in the NICU but has since taken her passion to the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development, and is doing what she loves most. She is preparing the next generation of Child Life Specialists to advocate for kids in the NICU and amplify their voices when they don’t have one.

But her experience doesn’t end there: Jenny’s youngest son, Evan, faced his own challenge with the discovery of a “dot” on his cheek, which proved to be an extremely rare and aggressive tumor. Thankfully, it has since been successfully surgically removed and is being carefully monitored. She knows firsthand the challenges of balancing your child’s medical needs with “just” being present as a parent.

Jenny shares her best advice with us: find a medical team that you trust wholeheartedly so you can let go of some “control” and always know that the medical teams and hospital staff are there to help you so that you can be present for your kiddo. Her advice is empowering, and I hope you find as much guidance and comfort in her words as I did today.

Key Takeaways with Jenny Berchtold

  • What Family-Centered Care is and why Jenny is so passionate about it.
  • Understanding that the medical teams are only a small part of a family’s life journey and that they’re only there to help make a positive impact.
  • How it’s okay to let go of some control and trust your child’s medical team.
  • When hospital staff ask parents how they’re doing, they’re actually hoping for and expecting an honest answer as they only want to help.
  • How much better it is for parents to prepare to ask the right questions instead of researching everything on their own.
  • How removing the word “just” from those little requests that we all make everyday can make a huge difference.
  • The importance of letting go of guilt as a parent when you feel like you can’t do it all and that it’s okay to ask for help.

Jenny Berchtold Tweetables

  • “Being a child life specialist and being a mom are two very different things and they don’t coexist in the same moment. I was able to be a strong advocate for Evan, but I was not able to be his child life specialist. I needed that support from someone else.”  – Jenny Berchtold
  • “It doesn’t matter the size of the challenge ahead of a parent. It’s just hard. It’s okay to acknowledge the hard, and not compare it to whether it’s bigger or smaller than someone else’s.” – Jamie Freedlund
  • “I needed to be in the moment with my family, and trust the professionals to do what they have trained to do. Find a team that you ultimately trust.” – Jenny Berchtold
  • “I am not the one that is rowing this boat right now. I’m letting myself ride in the boat and letting them row.” – Jenny Berchtold
  • “The more we can support parents and empower them, the more they can be the ones to provide that care to their child. And that’s family-centered.” – Jenny Berchtold


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