Empowering Adolescents through Journaling: Spotlight on Digging Deep

Navigating through your tween and adolescent years is already difficult, now imagine also coping with a medical condition. It can be a recipe for disaster. Child life specialists work closely with this age group to normalize their experience and help teens feel empowered.
I’m excited to feature an amazing tool that every specialist should use with their patients, Digging Deep: A Journal for Young People Facing Health Challenges, by Rose Offner and Sheri Brisson.
Digging Deep Journal Collage
Digging Deep is a writing journal with guided prompts for older kids and teens facing serious and chronic illnesses or disabilities. Beautifully designed pages inspire children ages 10-18 to explore difficult issues more easily and to express their feelings through writing. Digging Deep serves as a tool for improved communication between patients, their families, and professional caregivers, often giving them a sense of hope and building their resilience to adversity.
Digging Deep

To request a complimentary copy for a child, a review copy for a hospital or nonprofit organization, or to place an order, go to Digging Deep’s Order Page. They are a nonprofit publisher, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, offering scholarship books where needed, and gratefully accept donations in order to provide more books to those who need them.

Digging Deep is also available in Spanish:  Explorando Hondo—Un diario personal para niños y adolescentes que enfrentan desafios de salud.

For more information, go to their website at Diggingdeep.org or call 1-800-488-3202. Be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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ArtWorks The Naomi Cohain Foundation

Creative expression is an amazing way to help children and adolescents cope with challenges in their lives, especially when it comes to their health. Child life specialists use creative arts as a therapeutic intervention to help patients process their experience, gain control, build resiliency, and provide a sense of normalcy in a clinical setting.

I am excited to feature ArtWorks The Naomi Cohain Foundation on the blog today as they have been providing child life programs and patients with amazing service. I had the pleasure to work with ArtWorks while working in the hospital and was blown away by their dedication, professionalism, and empathy for our patients and families. I am sure you will feel that same way after reading about their program.

ArtWorks Color Logo

“ArtWorks, founded in 2002, is a creative arts organization supporting children battling chronic and life-threatening conditions.  Partnering with over 50 hospitals and healthcare organizations, in New York and New Jersey, ArtWorks reaches over 20,000 young artists annually.  

ArtWorks The Naomi Cohain FoundationFocusing on building resiliency and celebrating the creativity within each child, ArtWorks offers several programs that are open to patients, and their siblings, 0-24 years old and is at no cost to them.  Express Yourself, hosted biannually in NY and NJ, offers an event to showcase the incredible talents of our community.  Young artists contribute their visual artwork, which is professionally hung and framed, as well as a performance artist,  present live with a  professional sound and lighting crew.  Close to 150 pieces of art and 25 performances are enjoyed by over 300 families and supporters.  Also at the showcase are art activities, light refreshments and VIP offerings such as a red carpet and giveaways!  ArtWorks was founded with the first Express Yourself show and this past May we hosted our 25th show!  It is a joy for ArtWorks to welcome back participants every year and introduce new faces to our annual tradition!  After the show, masterpieces are often seen installed in hospitals and companies through the Traveling Art Show.  The Express Yourself shows demonstrate the importance of applauding the efforts of our artists, providing a sense of normalcy and bringing families together for something not medically invasive but amazingly heartwarming.

ArtWorkds Express YourselfOffering patients and families the venue to share their talents is important to ArtWorks but so is providing the tools to create.  The Surprise!Supplies program has launched 32 art carts in 26 hospitals.  These one of a kind pieces of fine craftsmanship, stand about three feet tall and house a full array of artist implements.  From crayons, paper and scissors to craft kits, modeling clay and glitter glue, every cart is replenished three times a year and can be utilized day or night!  Decorated by world-renowned pop artist, Ed Heck, each cart has a custom design that is hospital compliant and a bright staple in so many hospital units.  Volunteers throughout the county have gotten involved by holding art supply collections to contribute to these vibrant carts evoking happiness and creative thought!  Anyone can host a drive year around and no supplies are too small or too great!  When giving these resources, ArtWorks is reminded how often the right instrument can inspire a world of distraction from pain and isolation and world of imagination! 

ArtWorks Collage ArtWorks’ newest program is the Intensive Creative Artist in Residence “ICAIR” Program, introducing professional working artist into hospitals.  Screened, trained and insured artists are able to work both beside with patients and families as well as in small groups.  The current roster of artists includes beatboxers, storytellers, animators, photographers, graffiti artists, percussionists, muralists and so much more!  Each ICAIR residency is custom fit for the uniqueness of the facility and is built be an extension of the child life teams.  Some assignments are a summer series of six workshops and others have been a consistent weekly presence for four years!  

ArtWorks 1

 With .89 for every dollar raised, ArtWorks ensures that their resources are directly going to the young artist we serve.  Making a huge impact in programs with limited child life staff or providing a value add to robust hospital teams, ArtWorks can meet the creative goals and impact positive change in any pediatric setting.  To learn more about ArtWorks, check out www.artworksfoundation.org or contact them at 201.608.0146.  ArtWorks Executive Director, Amy Sokal, shares “Partnering with leaders in the parenting and child life space, like Shani of Child Life Mommy, allow us to evolve with our partners and stay current on trends and important expansions that will help in sharing the healing power of the arts!” 

Protecting Your Teen from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a hot topic right now. I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to gather some information about how to communicate and protect our kids from it. I am delighted to introduce Amy Williams a parent of two teens and a former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health.

cyberbullying 2

Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become nearly impossible to escape for many teens. What makes this a significantly different problem from regular bullying is that cyberbullying follows teens wherever they take their laptops or smartphones. However, as with many problems, staying informed is one of the best ways to start taking action against it.

Two Big Factors

  • Boys especially like hiding the things they’re doing online. However, in most cases, they don’t actually need to hide their activities. Nobody really likes being snooped on, but the teenage obsession with hiding things feels a lot like paranoia.
  • Bullying is much more common online than it may seem. Kids generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to seeing stuff they don’t like.
  • “Empowered” kids, who have already figured out how to manipulate the technology they’re using and configure it to block messages from people they don’t like. A few have even gone as far as reporting bullies (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to do much on most social media sites), but their response to bullying is more-or-less laughing at it.
  • The other group of kids tend to stress out about the messages they see – they’re still vulnerable to hurtful messages, and oftentimes have trouble learning how to laugh off online threats and insults.

Now, the really weird part is how influenced these behaviors are by how the kids view technology. I’m not sure how true this is for everyone, but kids who like technology more seem to be less fazed by cyberbullying than kids who see technology as a problem – and yes, those types of kids exist too.

Preventative Action

A good first step to take in preventing cyberbullying is figuring out what type of responses your kids are having if you really want to help them get past it. Here are a few good options for parents:

  1. Monitoring Apps. This is totally snooping, but let’s face it, we snoop on their activities anyway until they show they’re mature enough to be independent or creative enough to get around us. If we’re going to keep tabs on them, then we might as well be doing it right.
  2. Family Discussions. Sometimes all you need to do is ask your child what they’d do if they saw a message they didn’t like – and it’s even better if you ask them to show you what they’d do. If they do well, give the little guy (or girl) some praise – hugs are a great choice.
  3. Watching Them. If your kid suddenly puts their phone down, looking rather upset, then there’s a pretty good chance they were just bullied somehow. Either that or someone spread a video you’ll wish you could watch out of your mind. Talk about it, but don’t intrude too far.

What do you think? Is there anything special you’re doing to help your children deal with cyberbullying? See the infographic below for more information.

Author_Amy Williams

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

Follow Amy on Twitter




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