How to Support Ukraine

I was recently contacted by Kaitlin Kulpa Welsh a Ukrainian American child life specialist who wanted to do everything she could to support her community. She is collaborating with disaster relief with plans for potential deployment and support of arriving refugees. She has also connected with Sts. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church from Ludlow, MA. They created an Amazon Wishlist and have already shipped 300 large moving boxes to medical facilities and orphanages in Ukraine and Poland.

If you would like to support their efforts, click here to make a purchase from their Amazon Wishlist 

How to talk to kids about the war

Provide age-appropriate, honest information, and help to clarify misconceptions. It’s okay to say that you don’t know. Model coping skills for your own feelings and compassion for others. Limit exposure to social media and news outlets, replaying events is not helpful. Speak up for Ukrainians by sharing vetted information and sharing important facts about their country and its contributions to the world. Provide clarification that people from either country aren’t “bad” or “enemies,” this is about one leader who we can refer to as a bully as children can relate to that concept.

Children who have immigrated from or have strong ties to either country may have guilt about playing, going to school, and participating in activities. Provide reassurance that it’s okay and important to keep their normal routines.

A little more about Kaitlin Kulpa Welsh, Child Life Specialist

As a little girl, my Ukrainian grandmother would sing beautiful Ukrainian lullabies to me and tell me stories in Ukrainian at bedtime. We would run around in her garden and sing Ukrainian nursery rhymes as we fed the birds. Sometimes while rocking babies at work I’ll soothe them by singing the same songs to them. They don’t know what I’m saying to them but they smile anyway. By sharing parts of my heritage, I’m able to honor my family and share how special Ukraine and its people are. The world has watched as the Ukrainian people have suffered at the hands of the Russian government during this horrific invasion and have come together to support them.

It’s important to understand that the trauma of this war runs deep for many families within our community. There is a strong history of conflict in this region of the world and the war is reopening a lot of wounds. My great grandfather was arrested and executed during World War 2 for refusing to concede the power of the capital city of Kiev. My grandmother, her younger sister, and her mother were transported to a concentration camp in Germany and were allowed to live if they were willing to work as translators. I grew up hearing stories from my grandmother and have made it a priority to share the beautiful Ukrainian culture, share information about the Holocaust, and aid refugees from all countries.

The Ukrainian people have a strong fighting spirit and deep pride in their country.

Pictured is a quilt my grandmother made to display her love for her country.

Finding Balance Between Motherhood & Working as a Child Life Specialist

Guest Blogger, Sam Johnson

We work really hard to become child life specialists. We complete our prerequisites, apply to schools, take out loans, go to class, study, write theses, complete practicums and internships, sit for our certification exams, and then apply for jobs. Eventually, we become working child life specialists and the world keeps spinning and our lives carry on.

Finding a work-life balance can be difficult, particularly in a job that can be emotional, heavy, and requires us to give so much of ourselves.

I reflected on my recent return to work following maternity leave and my new identity as a working child life specialist and mother below.

To all the working mothers, soon-to-be working mothers, and future working mothers — I see you and you’re doing great. 

I am a mom AND a child life specialist

Beginning in the second grade, I wanted to be a mom. Most students’ ‘Star of the Week’ posters featured aspirations to be firemen, veterinarians, or ballerinas. When I grew up, though, I wanted to be a mom.

In my 20s, I discovered child life while volunteering at the local hospital and was excited to learn about a field of work that combined my love for kids and desire to work in a hospital.

I worked as a child life specialist for 4 years before becoming pregnant. My pregnant (and overconfident) self figured my expertise in child life development would make it easy to be a mom. And, because I love my job, it would be easy for me to return to work after having the baby.

I took every day of maternity leave the state and the hospital allowed, and then some (albeit, unpaid).

Having a baby is the most difficult job I have had and no amount of wanting, textbook reading, graduate coursework, certification, or hospital work experience could have ever prepared me for being a mom. I was introduced to a level of exhaustion I couldn’t before fathom existed, I was feeding a baby with reflux and obsessing over the ounces of milk I could express, and I was choosing between eating, cleaning, or showering because I knew I did not have time for it all.

Despite my bleeding nipples, sweat, and sandpaper-like eyeballs, I marveled at my son’s every noise, smile, and movement and I feared the end of my maternity leave. I missed my coworkers and I missed being a child life specialist, but I already missed my baby more. I missed moments with him I hadn’t yet had; I feared I would not be home when he first crawled, that he would choke during a meal, that he would be sick with a fever and I would not be able to hold him, or that he would not be able to fall asleep without me rocking him first. I was jealous of the nanny or daycare we would use for being able to take care of him each day.

On my first day back to work, I cried my entire drive to the hospital. I showed up to the office, grateful for masks, and glued to my phone for updates on my son. No one on the unit could believe I was still working full-time. Everyone asked me how I was able to leave my baby, how often I was pumping at work, and who my son was with during the day because he wasn’t with me.

Returning to work was hard. I felt guilty, sad, and alone. I had a difficult time, too, making sense of the fact that I was spending time with everyone else’s child except my own.

Eventually (thank you to therapy, family, and friends) I was able to recognize that by going to work I am giving my son the opportunity to leave the home each day and build social and emotional bonds with other people that love him. I am also fulfilling a separate (but not unrelated) purpose and supporting children and families in the hospital. In time, I regained my identity as a mom AND a child life specialist.

It’s been 9 months since I returned from maternity leave. Today, work feels like a natural part of my day. In the mornings, I exercise, shower, and get dressed while everyone else is sleeping. It’s time I spend taking care of myself before I take care of everyone else. I then get to drive alone in my car to work and think about how much I love my hot coffee.

At the hospital, I get to see the magic of medicine, connect with my coworkers-turned-dear-friends, work alongside brilliant, compassionate people, and go to the bathroom alone. I am proud to still be able to exercise the skills I spent so many years studying (and continue paying) for.

I leave work on time each day (hi, priorities!) and when I pull into the driveway, I cannot wait to watch my son turbo-speed to the door for hugs. My time with him is prized and intentional, and I am proud of our bond. I hope my son grows up seeing that women are extremely capable — we are moms, we hold careers, we are, in effect, superheroes.

Author:

Sam is a mom to Max (14 months) and works as a child life specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Acute Care floor at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. She is also the handler of a facility dog, Margene. On the weekends, you can find Sam on the beach with her family.

 

The Hospital Bedtime Story: Spotlight and Giveaway

Guest Blogger, Jessica Ehret, Author of The Hospital Bedtime Story

Hospitalization is disruptive to a child’s normal routine. It means that they are either ill or injured, and are requiring the work of medical professionals to diagnose and treat them. For the child, this typically means pain, fear, regression, and separation, to name a few. As parents do their best to navigate the process, child life specialists step in to help mitigate the journey; it is through our skill set and resources that we are able to best provide these services.

Here is a new resource for child life specialists to do just that. The Hospital Bedtime Story is a children’s book that is sure to provide comfort and gentle explanations of the child’s newfound surroundings. Specifically dedicated to patients, families, pediatric health care workers, and child life specialists.

About the book

Riley has been hospitalized and is processing everything that’s going on in the new and unfamiliar environment. From the hospital room itself, to vitals, routine interruption, procedural fear, and bedtime- Riley provides insight from a child’s perspective. Riley’s age and gender are not identified so that more children can relate, or make their own inferences. Riley’s medical condition also remains unspecified in the book, due to the vast range of diagnoses and circumstances that warrant hospitalization.

Who is it intended for?

This book was created for children who are, who will be, or who have been hospitalized. This is also a resource for child life specialists to add to their toolkits. It’s recommended for ages 4-10.

The Hospital Bedtime Story is a great resource to be introduced at the time of hospitalization. Caregivers, nurses, or child life specialists can offer this book to children and families to provide gentle explanations, comfort, normalcy with a bedtime routine, and to encourage positive thinking.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book for 2 reasons; one is professional, and the other personal.

Professional- as a child life specialist, ‘I put myself in my patient’s shoes’ in order to empathize, and to best understand them. On several occasions, I left work for the evening and I continued to think about those families and what the rest of their evening might be like.

Personal- as a mom of two small children, upon getting home after work- it’s dinner, bath, and bedtime. Like ours, most families with young children have bedtime routines that consist of reading books before going to sleep.

So, through both avenues, I saw a need to help normalize this portion of hospitalization for children and families. Many of us go home for the day, while our patients and parents still have the entire night to face. This left me wondering, what more could I do at that point? How could I provide support without my presence, but still offer a resource that is intimate and helpful? Hence, a bedtime story about hospitalization.

Where to purchase?

The book is currently being sold on Barnes and Noble, Amazon in paperback and Kindle version.

We will be giving away a copy of The Hospital Bedtime Stroy 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 tag two friends in the post.
  4. Twitter: Follow, Like, and RT the post to @ChildLifeMommy.

Good Luck, the winner will be chosen on 5/30/20.

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How to Help During a Hospitalization