Chapter 2 -Insights from Child Development for Pediatric Chaplains

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

The difference between what someone can do on their own and what they would be able to do with support or collaboration.


Feeling loved and cared for are critical for their future physical, mental and spiritual development.

Chaplains should encourage medically appropriate touch between infants and parents (Necessary for emotional development). 

Has a great impact on how we view the devine.



High level of determination and a lact of caution.

Support their desire for autonomy. 

Play is the best gateway into a child’s world. 

Carry a ‘magic visitng bag’ filled with games, toys, and other stuff.




Imagination is a great playground for them.

Stories that capture the child’s imagination can be another valuable tool to connect with them.

Ask for their input in prayers, with what activities they’d like to do, and allow them to lead the dance of spiritual care. Ask for permission. 

School Age

Focus on fairness and are more thoroughly developing their understanding of right and wrong. 

Same emotions as adults when coping with health-related issues. 

Work towards building a rapport with the child that acknowledges their feeilngs and creates a safe environment to express their emotions.


State of personal awakening and questioning. 

Spirituality is the most robust protective factor against the big three dangers of adolescence: Depression, Substance abuse, and risk taking.

Suge of spiritual awakening that occurs alongside the physical and emotional development surges during adolescence. 

Discuss things that are of interest to them to connect. 

Be mindful of the losses in their ‘normal’ lives that they are loosing (prom, graduation, etc.)