Fabulous Find Fridays; Bear Heart Buddy

Today’s Fabulous Find is one of my favorite bereavement resources, Bare Heart Buddy! The Bare Heart Buddy was founded by a Child Life Specialist who was looking for something to use for families who were struggling with loss or separation. The Bare Heart Buddy comes in a pack of two teddy bears, both of which have a hidden pocket in their backs. These pockets can be used to save mementos from the loved one, put letters to the loved ones or just draw memories that were shared with the loved ones. I enjoy using them for bereavement with children because I give the child two teddy bears. One they can leave with their loved one in the hospital or in the casket, and the other can be kept with the child. This is a connection with their loved one that lasts long after separation.

bare heart buddy 2

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Favorite Bereavement Resources

There are many resources that can be given to families when providing bereavement support. Below are a few of my favorite things;

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Bare Heart Buddy. I love these bears because they have a hidden pocket in them and come in pairs. This means that children can put notes in one for their loved one and leave it at the bedside or in the casket and then they can keep the other bear and put keepsakes in it.

color wonder bundle

Color Wonder is great for making hand prints. By painting the patient’s hand with a clear gel, it will come up on the magic paper. Their loved one, the parent or sibling, can then add their hands to the picture. Because it’s a clear gel, it’s not as messy as paint it. Although I do want to share with you all one thing that we always remind families, make sure to make color copies! The paint does fade after time to if you copy it, it will last longer.

fire in my heart

Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins is a journal for teens. If you work with an adolescent population regularly, you know how hard it is to find resources to promote positive coping in teens. Books are either written for children or adults and teens are in this in-between phase where they need targeted support. This journal is specific for end of life situations and offers the reader many opportunities to write and draw their feelings. Because it’s aimed at teens, the wording isn’t so childish that teens feel babied by it but also not written so much for an adult that it loses the teens’ attention.

 

When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief. This is a journal for school-aged children about death. It focuses on how things change in life and opens a dialogue with children about what grief is.

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The Invisible String is a book for school-aged children that talks about loving someone although they aren’t there with you. Because it’s not specific for death, this book can be used for a variety of losses and separation. When used in bereavement settings, it can help lead discussion about how although our loved one isn’t here with us they still love us and we can still love them.

A Terrible Thing Happened is a book for young children about when something bad happens. It talks about the feelings that children might have, like an upset stomach, and how it is helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling. The terrible thing is vague throughout the book so that this resource can be used for pretty much any bad thing that happens, but it helps children recognize that these feelings are normal and it’s okay to talk about them.

What are your favorite bereavement resources?

Adult Consults – Visiting the Hospital

The hospital is a scary place. It’s even scarier when you’re a child and you hear that someone you love is sick and in the hospital. As a part of the Adult Consults that I did during my internship (check out last week’s post to learn more about the education portion of those consults), the Child Life Department would assist families in bringing children to the hospital to visit those loved ones.

We would start by talking to families about the children who would be coming. Did they have any past experience with visiting people in the hospital? What do they know about the special someone’s sickness? What are you (the parents) comfortable with sharing with them?

We would then share with the families some typical developmentally appropriate reactions to hospitalization. We talked with the caregiver about the child’s temperament and personality and then share some ways that similar children respond to visiting the hospital.

Finally, we would give practical instructions to the families. We would suggest giving children a job when they entered the room. This could be placing a painting by the bed or setting a teddy bear on the bedside table. By giving children a particular job, it eliminates some of the stress and uncertainty for them. We would also encourage parents to let children visit at their own pace. If they want to go right up to the bed and give their loved one a kiss, that’s okay. But it’s also okay for the child to stay by the door and watch from a distance. In such a stressful situation, it’s important that children feel supported and empowered to visit in a way that they feel comfortable with.

What are some of your tips for supporting a child’s visit to a loved one in the hospital?

Crash Course: Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb is up next in our Crash Course series. This is another show that I watched when I was a kid, albeit it came out towards the end of my childhood. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t know all the words to the theme song. This crew doesn’t want to waste a single moment of their summer, so they make sure to do something exciting each day!

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Our first friend is Phineas. This precocious member works with his step-brother, Ferb, to build all sorts of crazy contraptions. His catchphrase is “Hey Ferb! I know what we’re gonna do today.”

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Ferb is Phineas’ silent partner. Although he doesn’t say anything, he is right with Phineas with every thing they build and is actually the brains of their operations.

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Candace is Phineas and Ferb’s older sister. As their frequent babysitter, Candace sees everything that her brothers build. But as she goes to get her parents, their creations somehow disappear and so no one ever believes Candace.

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Jeremy is Candace’s crush. He seems to like Candace and she definitely likes him. Much of Candace’s experiences in the show are about getting Jeremy to notice and like her.

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Isabella is Phineas and Ferb’s friend and she also has a crush on Phineas although she isn’t as obvious as Candace is with Jeremy. Isabella’s catchphrase is “Hi Phineas. Watcha doin?”

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The evil villian in this show is Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Dr. Doofenshmirtz is Perry the Platapus’ nemesis. He concocts evil plans but Perry easily stops them as Dr. Doofenshmirtz isn’t very good at evil.

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Perry the Platypus is a secret agent who stops Dr. Doofenshmirtz just in the nick of time and then returns to being Phineas and Ferb’s family pet without anyone learning what he’s been up to.

Check out the catchy theme song below;

 

To learn more about the many characters of Phineas and Ferb, visit the Phineas and Ferb Wiki Page

Adult Consults – Discussing a Diagnosis

In the Fall of 2017, I completed my internship at a Pediatric Unit within an Adult Hospital. Although the pediatric population was our primary focus, we also provided support to adults who were struggling to talk to kids about hospital issues. One of the main things we did was work with parents to explain a new diagnosis to their children. If the parent had just been diagnosed with cancer or needed an organ transplant, we would often meet with the families to talk more about what these changes would mean.

You could probably define our main job as translation. Parents know their children best so most of them knew what to say but they struggled with how to explain medical terms like cancer, chemo, etc. That’s where Child Life’s developmentally appropriate experience and knowledge of the medical environment was needed. We would chat with parents about their children and what they’re like and then suggest ways to define big and scary words like cancer.

We also provided affirmation. With many of the families that I met with, the parents knew what they wanted to say and how to do it but they were unsure if they were “doing it right.” When we explained to them that they know their child best and their desire to be honest with the children is most important, families calmed down. It was interesting to see how helpful it was for them to have someone else say, “Yes, you’re doing it right.”

Obviously there were so many resources we provided for the families. For the parents, we gave them Kathleen McCue’s book How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious IllnessThis book is an excellent resource that provided families with practical guidance for talking to children about illness and also death. Because it’s broken up into smaller categories, parents could focus on the area that they felt they needed help with and they didn’t have to read the whole book. Some general books that we provided families with for their children were When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness and A Terrible Thing Happened.

For the children, we would share diagnosis specific books for the families about whatever illness they were facing. There are so many books available for children about illness and the medical setting, but they aren’t easily found in your local library. As Child Life Specialists, we knew resources that were available and we could share them with the families.

Finally, I loved to give families Worry Eaters or give them instructions to make their own worry eater. What’s great about Worry Eaters is that it encourages kids to write down their questions and fears but they can share those thoughts when they feel ready or when the caregiver is ready. It often takes some pressure off both the parent and the child. There was one family that I met during my internship who I gave Worry Eaters to mom to give to her two school aged boys. For the rest of dad’s hospitalization, they carried those Worry Eaters with them wherever they went. We invited the boys to many hospital events that were happening for our pediatric patients, and they brought their Worry Eaters to every event.

Do you work in a setting where you help adults talk to kids about overwhelming topics? I’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below!

Fabulous Find Friday: The Compassionate Friends

Today I want to share a resource for you to share with those you meet in the clinical setting. There is a group called The Compassionate Friends and their mission is to provide support to families after a child dies. The most interesting part about this group is that they aren’t just a support group for those who have lost a child but everyone involved has lost a child. From the local chapter to leadership in the national office, everyone involved has lost a child. So when people reach out for support, the people that greet them “know.” As much as we try to empathize and support families that are grieving, we don’t really know what it’s like to lose a child unless we have lost one. So by providing a support group to families of those who have walked this path as well, we offer those in pain another resource where they can begin to find healing.

The Compassionate Friends isn’t just for parents, but they also provide support to grandparents and siblings. Through their newsletters and support groups, anyone who has lost a child can find someone who shares their pain and really understands what it’s like to lose a child.

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Fabulous Find Friday: Worry Eaters

worry eater

Today’s Fabulous Find is Worry Eaters! These fun little monsters can eat a child’s worries away. Their mouth unzips so that children can place their worries in a safe place and their friend will eat it up so they don’t have to worry about it anymore. Visit their site to learn more about these little super heros; http://sorgenfresser.com/en/howto/

Fabulous Find Friday: Owl Babies Book

Owl Babies is a great book for helping young children understand separation, especially as a reminder that mommys and daddys come back. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell tells the story of three owl babies in the nest who awaken to find that their mommy is gone. They worry and wonder where she has gone with the youngest one really wanting mommy. When she returns at the end, she is greeted with excitement and joy. It is a great story to help children express their feelings about separation which is common during a child’s hospital stay.

owl babies

Fabulous Find: Gabe’s Chemo Duck

Cancer treatment can be scary for kids. As Child Life Specialists, we know the importance of preparation. Chemo Duck is a great tool to help prepare kids for a port, central line, or really any procedures they may encounter during their treatment. Chemo Duck comes with a port or a central line and he can be a child’s companion throughout treatment or just during medical play sessions.

 

Visit their website to learn more;  http://chemoduck.org/for-kids/meet-chemo-duck/

 

 

 

Fabulous Find Friday: STAR Institute

The STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder is based in Colorado but their website offers research and resources for people everywhere.

STAR’s website offers educationresearch and a variety of resources for professionals and families who want to learn more about SPD. As Child Life Specialists, we often encounter kids in the hospital with Sensory Processing Disorder. Especially with all the varying stimuli that are present in the hospital, it’s important for professionals to understand SPD and learn how to best support their patients. The STAR Institute is a great place to get started.