Pain Management Program

Using Imagination for Relaxation

The ability to think in images or pictures is a skill that comes easily to children and teens. This skill can be used to help cope with times that your child feels stressed, nervous or uncomfortable. It can also be helpful for pain management.

The goal of this page is to give you some ideas about how using your child's imagination can help her feel more relaxed. You can also talk to your child's nurse or child life specialist, if you have questions about using imagination for relaxation.

The five W’s of imagination

What?

It is a way of thinking about a place or things that can make you feel happy, relaxed, safe or calm.

Why?

Using your imagination to create a story in your mind or focus on a comforting memory distracts you from feeling uncomfortable or stressed. It’s a way to use your mind and imagination to help you relax. It can take your mind off of the Hospital, or an uncomfortable procedure. You can imagine a relaxing and enjoyable place.

Have you ever felt nervous? How does your body feel when you’re nervous? Some kids say it feels like butterflies in their stomachs. Sometimes your thoughts can change how your body feels. If you use your imagination to think of a happy or relaxing place (like a favorite vacation or a trip to the park) you can help your body feel more relaxed.

Who?

Anyone can use it. You can do it yourself or someone can help guide you through imagery to relaxation.

When?

It can help you at a time when you are stressed, nervous or uncomfortable.

Where? 

Anywhere you go. Your imagination travels with you so you can use it anywhere.

How to use the five W’s

If you can, get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Think about a comforting memory or place in your imagination. You can use all your senses when you do this.

Think about what it looks like. What do you see? What are you wearing? Is anyone with you? What are you doing? What can you smell? What sounds do you hear? What can you touch? The more details you can think of the more relaxed you may become.

Here are some examples:

If you would like, you can use a photo of your favorite person, place or activity to help you get started using your imagination. A photo can be helpful to some people, but it is not necessary for imagery to be successful.

Caregivers can use guided imagery to help children of any age to relax.

Contact us

For more information about the Pain Management Program at CHOP or to schedule an appointment, please call 215-590-1409.

Reviewed by: the Pain Managment Program team
Date: August 2012

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