“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

Don’t Give Up!

This week I accepted a Fall Child Life Internship! I’m so excited for what this next chapter of my Child Life journey is going to bring.

I could use this blog post to tell you all about how excited I am, how relieved that the internship application process is over or about my plans for next semester. All of this is happening, but instead I want to speak to those who did not get an internship offer.

If you don’t get an internship, don’t give up! If you truly are passionate about Child Life and want to become a Certified Child Life Specialist, then you will. It might just take a little longer than you expected. Child Life is very competitive. Some hospitals will receive over 75 applicants for their one internship position. So if you did not get an internship this semester, it means that you have time to expand your horizons and build your resume to make yourself more competitive next time.

If you looking for something to add to your experience, think about populations that you haven’t worked with yet. Maybe you have a lot of time spent with oncology patients, but you haven’t worked very many other diagnoses. Or you’ve worked with healthy kids, but don’t have much experience with children with special needs. A wide variety of experiences will give you many skills that can be used when working with kids as a Child Life Specialist. If you’re looking for something new, check out my list for getting volunteer experience. Let me know if you have other ideas that I can add to the list!

“No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them.” – Maeve Greyson

Fabulous Find Friday: Project Sunshine

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is Project Sunshine. I learned about this group at the National Child Life Conference back in May.

Project Sunshine is a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children facing medical challenges and their families.

Project Sunshine empowers a dynamic and dedicated corps of over 15,000 volunteers to bring programming – recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social service (HIV and nutritional counseling) – to 100,000 children facing medical challenges and their families in 175 cities across the United States and in four international locations: Canada, China, Israel and Kenya.

Volunteers selflessly donate their time to create program materials and deliver programs. Working onsite, our volunteers relieve the anxiety of the young patients and in a context of fun and play, foster in them the courage and coping skills necessary to confront procedures that lie ahead.

Project Sunshine volunteers spread sunshine, restoring a crucial sense of normalcy to the pediatric healthcare environment.

Project Sunshine has a bunch of volunteer opportunities for both students and also community members. So be sure to check out their website: http://www.projectsunshine.org/volunteer/index.php

Fabulous Find Friday: American Red Cross

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is not exactly original, but it’s one that deserves mentioning. The American Red Cross does a lot for those in need, but what I want to focus on today is blood donation.

As you can see, I am a blood donor. (Please ignore the awful angle of the picture, I wanted to make sure to get the donation arm and my face. Not an easy task). I want to encourage you all to donate blood because it’s a simple way to make a difference. As future Child Life Specialists, it’s also a good way to gain insight into the child’s experience. Donating blood is obviously not the same as an intimidating medical procedure, but I’ve found it helpful to get stuck with a needle every couple weeks. It’s one thing to say, “oh, it’s just a little pinch/sting and then it’s over.” It’s another thing to experience the needle and sit with it in your arm.

If you are a donor, why do you donate blood?

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Fabulous Find Friday: RAINN Online Hotline

Today’s Fabulous Find is not specifically Child Life related, but it is a way to provide support similar to what Child Life Specialists do. Child Life Specialists use empathy to reflect and validate the feelings and experiences of the children and families that they encounter. Unfortunately, this opportunity is really only available to my readers that live near New York City or Washington D.C.

RAINN provides a 24/7 hours hotline for survivors of sexual assault. For about a year now, I have worked as a staffer for their online hotline. What’s so great about this opportunity is that I can do it from my computer at home. The way this hotline works is that you choose when you want to do your handful of 2 hour shifts each month and then you can support a survivor through their online chat. The training is 40 hours of online training and then a weekend in either New York City or Washington D.C. Click here to learn more about how to get involved.

What are some of your favorite volunteer experiences that you have done?

Fabulous Find Friday: Child Life Disaster Relief

A few weeks ago, I was lucky to stumble upon the Child Life Disaster Relief’s website. This group provides Child Life Services to disaster areas. By partnering with Children’s Disaster Services, Child Life Disaster Relief deploys trained relief workers to areas in need. For a Child Life Student, the Child Life Disaster Relief provides some great opportunities. Not only do they offer Child Life related trainings, but they also provide opportunities for research. You can learn more ways to get involved here.

Child Life Disaster Relief is a new and expanding area for research. What area of Child Life would you recommend researchers focus on next?

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