Children’s Grief Awareness Day

cgad fbcover

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?

  1. Wear blue! Encourage your colleagues and friends to join you and let people know why blue is the color of the day.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.




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

TED Talk: A Manifesto for Play

Found this TED talk by Steve Keil called “A Manifesto for Play for Bulgaria & Beyond”.  While responding to the social and political history of Bulgaria that has led to an emphasis on “seriousness”, this talk has universal appeal.  He discusses the need for play and its role in strengthening children, families, and society.

A Heartfelt Thanks

you are so sweet!

you are so sweet!

Wow.  I’m truly amazed by the interest in yesterday’s post.  I normally have a small (but loyal!) blog following.  Yesterday, I had more visitors than ever before, by a big margin.  Part of the reason I write this blog is to widen my circle, to be part of a larger community of people that love child life. So, I want to say thank you to everyone that has stopped by to read a bit. Whether you’ve been following for a long time, or are a first-time visitor, I’m glad you are here.  I’ll be continuing the discussion of starting a private practice in a series of posts, probably 4-5 over the next few weeks.  If you want to make sure you see them all, you can “Follow” the blog by clicking the button on the sidebar. You’ll receive an email letting you know there’s a new post.  I’d also really love to hear your questions and ideas.  For me, blogging is about sharing and I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to join the conversation, and thanks again for stepping into my circle. I’m truly grateful.

Child Life Private Practice: Part 1

starting a private practice

I’ve had a lot of interest from other child lifers in the logistics of starting a child life private practice.  Some people are looking to add community services as a side job or supplement to part-time work and others are looking to make it a full-time occupation.  I had a lot of people graciously share their expertise and experience with me as I was researching self-employment.  So, I want to share some of what I have learned and things that you might want to consider in starting a private practice in a series of posts.  I had very little knowledge of the process of setting up a business in the beginning, and figuring out what I needed to do (and the order that I needed to do it in) was a little daunting.  The first step of the process is brainstorming the type of work you want and researching the structure of your business.

1. What services do you want to provide? 
Do you have a particular population that you want to serve? Do you see a need in your community that you can help fill? Some possibilities: offering traditional child life services in homes or community settings, providing services from a special certification you have like infant massage (or child safety, or Reiki, or guided imagery, etc), consulting with pediatric practices or hospitals in child/family friendly policies or design.  Seasoned professionals might offer supervision or mentoring to other child life specialists, tutoring child life students, or creating professional development opportunities.  I think it is important to mention that I think having a couple of years experience working with children and families is really a pre-requisite to this process. Learning the ropes of child life in the hospital setting will help you move more comfortably in alternative settings.

2. How much time and financial commitment?
How much time do you want to put toward your new venture?  Do you see this as an on-the-side job or something that you are committing to full time?  Building a new business takes time, especially when you are having to educate your target audience about your profession or service.  I’m almost five months into the process and I’m just now starting to see growth in the practice. I’ve been teaching a college course and substitute teaching to supplement my income throughout this time.  My husband is the primary bread-winner right now, and probably will be for quite a while.  The financial cost for starting a service-oriented business like this can be very reasonable compared to other businesses (primarily website, marketing tools like business cards, and supplies to use with clients like craft materials and medical play equipment).  However, you have to consider that time is money.  The biggest “cost” of my business for our family is the lack of income I could be making if I were employed by someone else.  I looked at the money I had in savings and developed a monthly budget/goal for spending to help me see the bigger financial picture.  It also serves as a guidepost for when I might need to consider adding a more regular part-time job to replace my occasional substitute teaching, if the practice isn’t growing the way I hope it will.   If you choose to start your practice as a part-time or side job there is less financial burden and risk, but the hours that you can offer services are reduced.  This might not be a problem at all, depending on what you’d like to do, where/how you offer services, and your regular work hours.

2. What type of business structure?
There are several different ways to organize a small business. So, one of the first steps in private practice development is choosing the type of business structure that meets your needs. The simplest type is called a “sole proprietorship” and generally just requires you to register the name of your business with your county or local government with a “doing business as” document.  While sole-proprietorship is the simplest business form, you also carry more financial liability with this structure. Professionals can also set up a limited liability corporation (LLC), professional limited liability corporation (PLLC), or traditional corporation.  I live and work in Houston, Texas and the local government makes starting a small home-based business pretty easy.  I am currently working as a “sole proprietor”.  This was the easiest way for me to begin, as I just had to register my DBA (doing business as) with my county office.  In the future, I might actually form an LLC, depending on the success and complexity of my practice. Laws vary a bit state-to-state in terms of the rules for which business types are allowed in your area. Your state and local government might also have requirements including permits or fees. Here is a link to the Small Business Association website where you can find your local chapter. They will have resources and the “rules” for your state and county:

I think that’s a lot of information for one post, so I’ll stop there for today.  In the next post I’ll talk a little about business finances, taxes, and accepting payments.

Teddy Bear Check-up Coloring Page

teddy bear coloring page

I’m participating in a community health fair this weekend and I’ve been busy all week preparing materials for my table.  I wanted to have a few fun sheets as handouts for young children with their parents.  I already had a word seach and an I-Spy page, but didn’t have a fun coloring sheet.  So, I made one.  I started with a photograph of a teddy bear with medical play supplies that I took for my practice website.  I changed the photo into black and white and manipulated the contrast so that the edges of objects were dark and distinct.  I printed this out and put it on a clear plastic clipboard with a blank sheet of paper on top.  I used a flashlight to backlight it a bit. I traced in pencil and fiddled with the drawing until it looked the way I wanted.  Then, I traced the pencil version again on a new sheet of paper using a permanent Micron pen.  I scanned this to create a coloring page.  Feel free to print and use for non-commercial purposes: teddy bear coloring page!

All About Me Posters

you don't say!

you don’t say!

It’s 2013? Really?

At the hospital we have been reviewing policies, completing end-of-year paperwork,  setting goals and lots of other administrative stuff.  I’ve felt a bit buried in paper and meetings.  While not my favorite time of year or favorite part of my job, it is necessary and will help Child Life grow at my little hospital.  In the midst of this I’ve designed a few fun things lately and thought I’d share with everyone here on the blog.  I’ve created two “all about me” posters for use with patients.  They are generic enough that they could also be used with siblings.  One poster has a star border and was created with school-age kids in mind, and the other has a comic book feel and was created for teens.  The teen one is title “Get to know…” because I felt that sounded a little more age-appropriate.  Both posters are formatted for printing on 11×17 (tabloid) size paper but can easily be used and printed on 8.5×11 paper.  As always, I am making these freely available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.  I hope that these prove useful and I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you use them with patients.  Happy 2013!

Photo Credit:  Mohammed Alnaser via Flickr