Bringing Play to Chronically Ill Children During a Pandemic

In early March, we were clearly not preprepared for the sideswipe that COVID-19 brought. The unexpected virus created havoc in our communities, hospitals, and homes. As a child life specialist working in private practice, I had to halt my in-person sessions and pivot to a telehealth platform. Then quickly figure out how to create an interactive and therapeutic virtual environment that still followed the highest standards of safety and privacy.

Child life specialists working in hospitals also had similar challenges. Playrooms were closed, strict restrictions on visitations were in place, and patients were isolated in their rooms. It was awful.

Project Sunshine is a nonprofit based out of New York City.  Their mission is to “harness the power of play to support the psychosocial and developmental needs of children and their families as they face medical challenges.” They quickly saw the negative impact that COVID-19 was having on our most vulnerable and decided to pivot their efforts to better support them.

They licensed a healthcare HIPAA compliant Zoom account and allowed many child life programs to use. They also created a TelePlay program for interactive group sessions that are FREE and available to children and teens.

I have had the opportunity to use both. The families I work with were thrilled to continue child life services during our shelter in place orders; creating, expressing, and staying connected during these challenging times.

Learn more about Project Sunshine’s TelePlay program in the guest post below.

Know a child who is hospitalized, or dealing with a medical challenge at home?  In the current environment of the pandemic, it can be overwhelming for children and their families, given the additional hurdles of isolation and social distancing. Dealing with a medical challenge makes things even more difficult. For over 20 years, Project Sunshine has brought play programming to pediatric patients in over 400 medical facilities across the United States.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is one of the most effective methods of reducing stress in kids, allowing their bodies to heal. To continue to support children and families in innovative ways, Project Sunshine has developed a new virtual, safe TelePlay program that provides the healing power of play. Children can choose from a variety of live, interactive games, and activities facilitated by Project Sunshine’s highly trained and vetted volunteers. Games are created for children between the ages of 5-12 and 12-18. Join us for a wide variety of games, from Disney and animal trivia to Scattergories, hidden image, fishbowl, and more!

If you know of any child facing medical challenges in your community that would benefit from TelePlay, they are welcome to sign up for our programs – all they need is a device (a laptop, smartphone, or tablet). A full schedule of activities can be seen here. Patients can join from home and their siblings and caregivers are always welcome. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, all of Project Sunshine’s programs are free for patients.

For additional information please visit our website.

You can sign up for a TelePlay Session by going to the following link: bit.ly/TelePlaySessionSignUp. Or you can download our TelePlay Postcard

Related Articles:

COVID-19 Resource

Project Sunshine’s Holiday Toy Drive

Tips to Support a Child Receiving Stitches

The first set of stitches is in the books for my little guy, Blake.  After I tossed him in a pond our giant lab, Tank leaped right on top of him. His paw hit Blake’s face and punctured his lip. Both of my kids freaked out. I mean full on tears and a hard time breathing. Blake went limp like a ragdoll, puked before we got him in the car, and then fell asleep from exhaustion. He was at a level 10 for anxiety. We had a 2-hour drive to urgent care, so it gave us time to regroup and calm down.

Here is what we did to make the situation go from high anxiety with pain and trauma to a successful procedure.
  1. I stayed calm. I lowered my voice, made good eye contact, and reminded him that this was my job.
  2. I prepared him for what he would experience. I gave him lots of details and cleared up misconceptions.
    I talked about his job of keeping his body still and breathing. I explained that stitches are string bandaids and that the doctor will numb the area so that he wouldn’t feel it.
  3. I validated his emotions and provided reassurance. “You are so scared right now. I will be there to help you.”
  4. Advocacy. This was a big one for me. I advocated for topical numbing cream which the doctor was hesitant on but then agreed. I knew it would decrease the pain from the lidocaine injection.
  5. Comfort hold. There was a papoose board in the trauma room and B asked what it was. Every meme that The iPad Lady has posted went through my head. There was no way they were going to use that. He was able to lay directly on my chest in a position for comfort.
  6. Distraction. I held up my phone so B could watch a movie during the procedure.
  7. Choices. I gave him as many choices as I could.
  8.  ONE VOICE. When he was getting the stitches it was just the doctor and us, no other team members. Everyone was super calm, the doctor would talk to him about what he was doing before he did it.
  9.  Procedural Support. I named things that he was doing great on, slow deep breaths & keeping his body still.
  10.  Bravery Reward. Yes, he got ice cream and chose a small toy for being so brave.

Highlights: The doctor said,” Good idea Mom on the numbing cream.” ❤️

You can continue to help kids process their experiences and feel empowerment when you ask them to share their stories. It could be done through medical play, art, journaling, or verbaling telling you.

 

Related Articles:

Medical Play 

5 Tips to Help Your Child at The Doctor 

How to Pack an Emergency Go Bag

Mom Writes Children’s Picture Book to Help Kids Cope with Anxiety

Guest Post on Anxious Ellie

As people across the country practice mindfulness in light of Coronavirus fears, one Charlotte mom wants kids to know that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious sometimes. Danielle Price has released Anxious Ellie, a children’s book published by Charlotte-based Warren Publishing.

Anxious Ellie is a sweet story that helps children understand that, even though you feel afraid, you never have to feel alone. Complete with delightful illustrations by Nana Gonzales, this twenty-two-page book, available in both hard and softcover formats, normalizes anxiety and promotes mental health for young readers.

Price wrote Anxious Ellie to encapsulate her own childhood experience. “Growing up, I was terrified of dogs,” she says. “I really wanted to love them, but I just couldn’t. I felt isolated from certain places, like parks or friends’ homes, because my anxiety would prevent me from going there.”

“While it may not be dogs or mud puddles, children can experience anxiety in many forms,” Price continued. Her goal for Anxious Ellie is that the book will help children navigate through anxious situations. She wants kids to know that, no matter what anxieties they may face, every person has a unique gift to offer the world and nobody is alone.

From the back cover: Ellie the elephant loves to draw pictures, host tea parties, and nibble on delicious, buttery biscuits. What she does not love, however, is mud. In fact, the mere thought of mud gives her nightmares! Poor Ellie feels left out when all the other elephants go outside to play in the mud puddle. Sometimes, she feels so mad and so sad, it makes her cry. Thankfully, with the help of a good friend––and some yummy, buttery biscuits––Ellie learns that everybody gets scared sometimes, but nobody ever has to be alone.

Anxious Ellie is available at Warren Publishing, Amazon, or ask for it wherever books are sold.

We will be giving away a copy of Anxious Ellie to one lucky winner.

Choose one or more ways to enter:

  1. Sign up for email notifications at ChildLifeMommy.com and leave a comment below.
  2. Facebook: Follow Child Life Mommy and tag a friend.
  3. Instagram: Follow @ChildLifeMommy and @WarrenPublish,  tag two friends in the post.
  4. Twitter: Follow, Like, and RT the post to @ChildLifeMommy.

Good luck, the winner will be chosen by 6/12/20.