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.

Fabulous Find Friday: “How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness.”

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is a book recommendation, How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue.

This is a great guide for parents who want to talk to their children, but it can also educate other professionals in the field who might encounter parents that are dying or their children. McCue offers practical advice for talking to children about a diagnosis and also how to support them through a loss. The book is divided into specific sections that are geared toward answering a particular question or focusing on a specific population. This allows the parent to go straight to the part of the book that might be most applicable to their situation. McCue not only draws on her years of experience from working with families that are undergoing loss, but she also includes real examples of families who have had similar experiences.


How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as an Ebook through Google Books.

“The aim is for your children to build a whole new repertoire of responses – safe, healthy ways of coping with the wrenching, abnormal situation of a parent’s grave illness. Whatever transpires now for you, the parents, you want your children to emerge whole, fulfilled, and ready for the rest of their lives.”

– Kathleen McCue


“Just” Playing!

Last summer I visited Lurie Children’s Hospital and had the opportunity to meet with members of their Child Life Staff. One of the people I met was the Director of Children’s Services. When she asked about my volunteering experience, I mentioned that I was completing my practicum and learning a lot about Child Life and working with kids in the hospital setting. I also shared that I was volunteering in a clinic’s waiting room. My responsibilities there included “just playing with the kids.” She immediately called me out on using the word just and encouraged me to not say “just” playing or “just” doing anything else. Because every experience is important.

In the past year, I have reflected on this advice many times. She was so firm against using the word “just.” And she was right, “just” minimizes things. It trivializes experiences. “Just” diminishes the importance of our work. You’re not “just” listening to someone, you are listening to that person. Being in the moment is so crucial, you listening to them could make a world of difference to that person who needs you. You don’t “just” volunteer, you volunteer. And that volunteering is something you should be proud of, it’s important.

I had an experience while volunteering at a Child Advocacy Center that reaffirmed for me the importance of play. One day while I was volunteering, a little boy came into the waiting room with one of his parents. The waiting room of the advocacy center was empty that day and so I spent my time playing with this little boy. We played Jenga, Sorry and other games while he and his parent waited to meet with members of the interdisciplinary staff. I didn’t think that our interaction was unusual. I played with kids in the waiting room all the time and this patient was no different. The way I saw it, I wasn’t providing any sort of specialized support. I was not prepping him for procedures or helping him cope with stress. I played with him to occupy his and my time while we were both in the waiting room.

When his parent was ready to go, the little boy asked that he stay longer so he could keep playing. His parent allowed him to stay a little longer before they needed to leave. As the little boy left, he told me that I was his best friend. We must have very different ideas of what a best friend is because I think of a best friend as someone who has been there for you for years and makes you laugh and have fun. But to that little boy, my playing with him meant I was his friend. I communicated with him through play. By “just” playing, I told him he was safe and loved. By allowing him to “just” choose the games he wanted to play with, I was able to give him back a sense of control. I was not “just” playing, I was playing.

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings and grow.”

– Alfie Kohn

My Experience as a Patient

I want to start this post by saying that I am okay! I realize that my entire head is bandaged, but I actually just had a small cut on the back of my scalp. The bandage goes around my entire head so that the gauze on my wound would stay there without someone holding it. I went ice skating with friends this past weekend and took a little spill about ten minutes into the afternoon. My feet went out from under me, my butt hit the ice and then my head. My first thought was, naturally, “darn, that’s embarrassing!” I wanted to get back up brush it off, but I quickly realized that was not possible. Although I did not pass out or become dizzy, I was very light headed. My friends dragged me over to the side of the rink, but I was able to walk off the ice and later walk to the car and into the hospital. So that definitely felt like an accomplishment! A nurse and a surgeon’s PA both came over after my fall and were very helpful in stopping the bleeding and taking care of me before the medics got there. While I was sitting on the ice withe everyone taking such good care of me, I quickly realized that you can’t turn off the child life specialist within you. I might not be certified yet, but I believe that I think and act like a child life specialist. I noticed that there were some kids in the group standing very close and trying to see. In my head, I wished that someone would engage them in interactive play away from here so they wouldn’t see all the blood. Since I couldn’t easily convey that to those around me, I tried to use an enthusiastic voice and suggest that they go ice skating some more. I might have been bleeding from my head, but I sure wasn’t going to let those children see the blood and get scared.


After the medics at the ice rink wrapped my head, our next stop was the emergency room. Now one of my strengths is communication and I talk A LOT when I’m nervous or when my adrenaline is rushing. I’ll let you imagine what the car ride was like…. One of the things that I later realized I did was prepared the others in the car for what might happen when we got there. But I think that I was actually trying to calm myself by walking everyone through the procedure. One of my practicum supervisors from this summer was an ER Child Life Specialist, so we spent a lot of time working with kids with lacerations. I knew the steps; numbing medication (probably EMLA cream since it was an open wound and a J-tip wouldn’t be practical), irrigation (the big syringe that washed your wound) and then the sutures. My friends must have thought I was crazy as I told them what each step would be and the associated sensations. Lucky for me, they are great friends and just listened as I blabbered on!


After the drive to the hospital came the fun part of waiting. The registration and triage went very quickly, but then we were sent back to the waiting room for what would be a four hour wait. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t turn off the child life specialist in me so I had Play-Doh in my purse that was nice to squeeze while waiting. As we were waiting, I tried to look around and imagine how it might look to an injured child. The hospital we went to was next door to a large Children’s Hospital, so this emergency department didn’t have anything for children as kids would be brought next door. But regardless of whether the hospital is a children’s hospital or not, there is always a wait time. And this wait time is a time of the unknown, a time to imagine what might be going on behind closed doors in the ER and also about how the doctor might decide to treat the wound.

After those four hours, I was admitted to an ER room and the doctor came in shortly after. He looked at the wound on the back of my head and then left to talk to his supervisor before they both returned to start fixing my head. While they were gone, the nurse brought in the supplies that they would be using. I had been wrong about how the doctor would take care of my head wound, and they actually used a numbing agent that is injected into the skin and they stapled my wound instead of doing stitches. But when the nurse brought in the supplies, I was able to identify them. I knew what the sterile water was for (irrigation), I recognized the irrigation kit and the large syringe, I knew that the small vial of medication was the numbing agent that would be injected and I could easily figure out which device was the stapler. But what if I hadn’t spent my summer in the hospital? What if I was a scared child who just saw a nurse bring in the supplies? As I named the items, I realized how important it is to properly prepare kids before procedures. Before my accident, I did know that preparation was important. But the experience of being the patient let me realize it’s importance from another point of view, the point of view of the child instead of the student who has studied stress, trauma and child development.


In the end, I only needed two staples for the one centimeter cut on the back of my head. While I’m glad I didn’t have a concussion and that it’s wasn’t more serious, a larger wound might have made a more dramatic story! But I can’t complain about how things worked out. 🙂 I’ve never been seriously hurt before this (and I realize that this injury wasn’t very serious either) but it did allow me to experience the hospital in a way that many children do each day. It allowed me an opportunity to grow in empathy towards those who are in the hospital, to those children that I hope to one day serve as a Certified Child Life Specialist.