I’m so excited! The new (Summer 2015) edition of the Child Life Council Bulletin includes an article that Genevieve Lowry and I wrote on private practice. We discuss some of the reasons we took child life into the community, and the ways in which CCLS in alternative and healthcare settings can collaborate to expand support for children and families. You can check out our article on page 6 as well as a lot of great information on child life in alternatives settings, by following the link and clicking on the “current issue”: Child Life Council Bulletin
Child Life Highlight: Teresa Schoell
There’s a great post highlighting the work of child life super star Teresa Schoell over at Child Life Mommy. Teresa has created a sucessful one-person program and is a frequent and very knowledgeable contributor to the CLC forum. So, if you need a little child life inspiration today, check out her story: Success in A One Person Child Life Program
So, I’ve been away from the blog forever. I’ve honestly been meaning to write this post for at least two months. But, life has been a little crazy and wonderfully exciting lately because Jeff and I are expecting a baby! I’m due in August and the two of us can’t wait to have this sweet little person join our family. We have planned and thought and hoped for this baby for a while, so to learn I was pregnant in December was the very best Christmas present. The weeks that followed were filled with holidays, doctor visits, first ultrasound, lots of evenings at home, and trying to wrap our brains around this new journey.
I’m now 18 weeks and starting to look and feel pregnant. The first trimester was filled with lots of excitement and firsts, but also considerable fatigue and daily “morning sickness” (which was often worst in the evening). I’ve logged far more hours curled up on our futon with our cats than I care to admit :) Thankfully, I’m now starting to feel more energetic and most of the queasiness is gone. It’s been fun to start picking out baby gear like car seats and cribs and plan for the arrival of our little peanut.
I know that my profession will influence the parent I am becoming and parenting will change what I bring to my professional life. I can’t wait to see what playfulness is in store.
Children’s Grief Awareness Day
Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day and people all over the country are showing their support for children who have experienced the death of a loved one by wearing blue. Bo’s Place, my local grief support center, worked with a local high school origami group to create blue butterflies for volunteers and family members to wear in honor of the day. I proudly pinned my butterfly to my sweater this morning and took the opportunity to tell my college of education students about how they could refer grieving families for free support. Grief, and children’s grief in particular, isn’t an easy subject to talk about. Unfortunately, this means that many community members don’t know what to say or do to help children after the death of a loved one. Children’s Grief Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to share helpful tips, bring awareness to local grief organizations, fund raise, and make our wish for hope and healing visible. So, how can you help?
- Wear blue! Encourage your colleagues and friends to join you and let people know why blue is the color of the day.
- Spread the word through social media. Use Hope the butterfly (shown above) as your profile picture or cover art on your favorite social media site and use the hashtag #cgadhope. You can download logos and images here.
- Find your local grief support center and learn how to refer families for services. Consider volunteering, donating, or helping them spread the word about their work in the community. You can search for a center in your area at the National Alliance for Grieving Children
- Share tips for supporting grieving children with your school, house of worship, or other organization that works with families. You can use this flyer from Bo’s Place.
- Make blue butterfly crafts. You could start a wall of hope where people can write names or messages on blue paper butterflies. Make and wear blue accessories. Wanna make a blue butterfly origami pin like the one from Bo’s Place? Simply follow this instruction video and adhere with a safety pin.
- Learn more about Children’s Grief Awareness Day
Let’s spread a little hope as we approach the holiday season by supporting families that have experienced the death of a loved one.
Positioning for Comfort
I’ve been going through resources on comfort positioning recently and rediscovered this video from Dell Children’s Medical Center. Using comfort positions for procedures can make a huge difference in children’s level of anxiety and cooperation for new/scary medical procedures. Being in a more upright position with a trusted parent or caregiver is a relatively quick and easy intervention with big benefits. I love this video from Dell as it explains why comfort positioning is helpful, gives examples of positions for different procedures, and is presented by an awesome nurse from the emergency department (sometimes medical staff respond better to hearing from other providers). Hope this resource helps those of you looking to increase the use of comfort positioning at your hospital!
Big Kid Small City Feature
I had a fun boost recently when a popular local blog did a feature on me and my private practice! Jill writes the Big Kid Small City blog and highlights family friendly people, places and events in Houston. You can find the piece about me by following the link:
Big Kid Small City, Powerful Play
Any Houstonians (or visitors to the area) should browse around the blog as there are reviews of local parks, kid-friendly restaurants, and a guide to events in the area for every weekend.
Grief Resources for Young Children
I’ve mentioned in blog posts before that I’m a Playmaker. Recently, a fellow Playmaker posted to the group Facebook page asking for resources and information to support a preschooler whose father died. I gathered some of my go-to resources to respond and thought that others might find them useful. I’m posting them here so I’ll remember, and hopefully it will help others as well. Please feel free to add suggestions for other materials in the comments, as it is great to have a variety of materials to serve different families and needs.
Sesame Street “When Families Grieve”
Sesame Workshop has created wonderful resources for caregivers of young children around grief. They have created two guides, one for the general public and one for military families with accompanying facilitator guides. These are available as a family packet that contains a parent resource guide, DVD with a story featuring Elmo, and a children’s storybook. You can order them (for free!) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download or print all of the materials from their website.
Parent Resources Topic Page- Grief
Downloadable When Families Grieve Materials
The Fred Rogers Company “Dealing with Death”
This parent resource page is a wonderful, brief overview of working with young children who have experienced a loss. It discusses children’s curiosity and questions surrounding death, feelings expression, and the need to prepare children for funerals and rituals surrounding death. The “Helpful Hints” tab has good guidelines for talking about death with young children.
Special Challenges: Dealing with Death
Books for Young Children
There are many books for early childhood that cover death and grief. Here are a few of my favorites that are suitable for a general audience as they use simple, but gentle and truthful language, and avoid specific reference to any one religious belief. I am linking to the Amazon pages for these books for easy reference, but do not receive any monetary gain from doing so.
I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas
Where Are You: A Child’s Book About Loss by Laura Olivieri
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie
Although not specifically about death, the next two books can be useful for helping children feel a continued connection with the deceased:
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
Locate a Family Grief Support Center
National Alliance for Grieving Children: Find Support
New York Life and the Moyer Foundation have partnered to create the National Bereavement Resource Guide which includes listings for grief support centers/organizations and grief camps in every state.
National Bereavement Resource Guide
National Alliance for Grieving Children
New York Life Foundation: A Child In Grief
The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families
The Centering Corporation has many resources including books, pamphlets and educational materials for working with bereaved families.
I hope that these resources are useful for supporting young children experiencing grief and loss. Please share resources you find helpful in the comments!
Photo Credit: Jessica Lucia via Flickr
A little reminder to hold as intention as I enter the week:
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”
― L. P. Jacks
Bo’s Place: Grief Support Volunteer
When I completed my child life internship I knew that it might take some time for me to find a child life position. My husband and I took turns pursuing our graduate education and so my job search was limited to Houston and nearby communities if we wanted to be able to live in the same city. I started searching for ways to continue learning about psychosocial care and build on the skills I gained during internship. I learned about Bo’s Place, Houston’s non-profit grief support center, from another child life specialist. I decided to train as a volunteer and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional journey.
What started out as an attempt to deepen my understanding of grief and bereavement became so much more. I’ve volunteered for years now and plan on continuing for as long as I can and they will have me. I’ve facilitated in peer support groups for children from preschool age through teens. I’ve been a camp counselor at their weekend family Camp Healing Hearts. I’ve gained so much from my time at Bo’s Place: friendships and professional connections with an amazing group of volunteer facilitators, training in grief and trauma, professional development workshops, and the opportunity to work with kids in an environment that is truly attuned to their needs. Bo’s Place has been a warm and consistent space for me as I’ve navigated different jobs and new skills. It has become part of my sense of community and professional identity.
Bo’s Place follows a peer support group model for grief and bereavement. The core of their programming focuses on children and families, but they also have groups for adults and pregnancy loss. Services are free for participants and there is no “timeline” for their participation. Regardless of the timing of the death, if the family is grieving and needs support, Bo’s Place will either offer them a space or help direct them to another community resource that might meet their needs. As a child life specialist, it warms my heart to volunteer in a space that has a playroom, art room, music room, and “tornado” room (indoor space for active group games). They recognize the need for children to play out their feelings in a safe space and make it a reality.
So, if you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, check out Bo’s Place or the grief support center in your community. People often ask if it is sad to work with grieving children. Honestly, while it can occasionally be sad or emotionally intense, there is also a ton of laughter and a lot of playfulness. Bo’s Place is a hopeful space; families see that they are not alone, get to share memories and feelings, and learn to cope.
If you are interested in applying to become a volunteer facilitator, please read more about it here.
Photo Credit: Luke Saagi via Flickr
New Child Life Blogs
I’ve seen a few new child life blogs pop up recently, and I thought I should share them here. I’m always excited to see new child life voices and perspectives pop up in blogs and social media. I keep a list of CCLS blogs and sites on the sidebar, and I’m always on the lookout for more. So, if I’m missing a good child life read, please let me know!
Childlifeology is written by Stefani Tower; a Bank Street graduate, child life specialist and mom of 2. She covers a lot of different areas relevant for child life specialists, students and parents including book reviews, resources and psychosocial topics.
Connecting with Compassion: The Confessions of Two Child Life Specialists
Caroline and Sydney are recent graduates and certified child life specialists. They share their experiences (one is starting her first child life job, the other is in grad school and teaching early childhood), tips for students starting the child life journey, and review lots of resources.
This site offers an international perspective on psychosocial care with information for health play specialists in the UK. Their role is very similar to child life in the US. You can learn about their higher education requirements, training, resources, and practice. It’s a very new site, so they are just now adding content. However, I’m looking forward to reading all about how a similar profession functions “across the pond”!
Let’s spread the love of all things child life by building a strong network of CCLS online! As always, like, share, follow and help our community grow…