Children’s Pain Captured in Art

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Guest Blogger, Standish Foundation for Child & Family Centered Healthcare

Artwork is a powerful therapeutic tool to help children and caregivers express their emotions about their medical experiences. Children often have a difficult time verbalizing feelings associated with pain and the modality of art provides them the opportunity to explore, create and gain mastery.

We are currently working on a project to help medical team members globally have a deeper understanding of pain and the impact that it has on children and families. We provide them with education and training that involves a patient and family-centered care approach. These coping strategies decrease trauma, provide children with a sense of control and have a positive outcome for everyone involved.

We need your help to spread awareness of pediatric pain management, so we are seeking two different types of artwork from kids and caregivers. One is about their perception of pain and the other is about how they feel after a coping strategy was used, such as medical play, comfort position, distraction tool, pharmaceutical relief, bravery reward or something similar.

If you would like to submit an image of artwork from your kids, yourself or from your patients (with consent), please email them to info@SF4C.org.

Thanks so much for all your support!

Quick Tips for Improving Your Child’s Creativity

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Guest Blogger, Annabelle Short

Fostering creativity in your child is very important to their future. While they are young, their minds are very impressionable and susceptible to the things going on around them. With many bad influences surrounding them, it is important to foster good and creative ideas that will prepare them to be successful in the future.

While they might not grow up to be the next Vincent van Gogh, creativity is still beneficial. It exposes their mind to a different way of thinking and opens new pathways, allowing them to really discover their interests and to grow and learn new things.

Here are some great tips for improving your child’s creativity:

  • Discuss creativity with your child. Your child will have an easier time letting themselves be creative, if they know exactly what it is that you are trying to get them to do. Let them know that it is fun to draw, paint and try new things. You are fostering creativity by making them aware of it.
  • Design a place for them to be creative. By giving them the atmosphere to be creative, they are more likely to take advantage of it. Set up an arts and crafts station. Put out pens, pencils, notebooks and stickers. A great way to really interest your child in the area is by adding personalized stickers! You can order stickers that are specific to things that your child is interested in. This will be sure to catch their attention and make them feel special. You could do something as simple as put their name on them, to something more special that they enjoy. They can use these stickers in their next creative project!
  • Avoid micromanaging. Let them be. Leave your child alone to be creative. While it is important to still keep an eye on them, don’t hover. They cannot be creative if you are standing right over them guiding them in what to do. Allow them the time and the space to develop and foster their own ideas.
  • Avoid only coloring books. Instead or pre-printed designs and books, try just giving them some white paper. This gives them a blank canvas to create something totally their own. This will avoid them just following the rules and allow them to think of something totally outside of the box.
  • Let them get messy. This might be the hardest part, but it goes right along with avoid micromanaging. Sometimes, they need to get messy in order to truly foster their creative ideas. Obviously, don’t just ignore it totally and let them get unruly or destroy the house, but sometimes a little paint on their hands and in their hair, is okay. They are learning.
  • Be creative yourself. Kids do learn by watching. If they see that you are being creative and trying new things, they will often want to do so themselves. This is also a great opportunity for you to encourage it. You could even say something as simple as, “See, mommy is being creative and making a new project. Why don’t you try?” This also goes hand-in-hand with discussing creativity, but this is the leading by example part of that.

DIY Fingerprint Mold

Our Guest Blogger, Teresa Schoell, is a Certified Child Life Specialist working with pediatric patients and their families in the hospital. She will be sharing a creative way to provide therapeutic activities for families coping with the loss of a loved one.

Materials Needed:

· Model Magic, 1 oz package in white (single-patient use, makes about 5-10 charms, depending on size)

· Markers (I use kid’s washable markers, any brand)

· Small straw (I use a coffee-straw usually, but have made do with a pencil tip or 16 gauge needle)

· Medical gloves

· Portable hard surface (clipboard, back of a tissue box, etc.)

materials
Instructions:

· This is very easy for siblings and kids to participate in – the materials are all kid-safe and easy to work with. I often find joining me for “a craft project” is a wonderful turning point for anxious little ones when their families bring them to the adult ICU to “say goodbye.” Crafts are so normalizing, familiar, and engaging.

· Wear gloves (this keeps your finger prints off the molds, and keeps you from getting marker on your fingers.)

· Roll out small balls (about grape sized, give or take), and gently flatten. Spheres flatten to circles. Tall mini-marshmallow shapes flatten to rounded rectangles (I use the side of a tissue box to straighten the sides a bit after flattening) Get creative with your shapes. I’ve done hearts, crosses, dolphins, and tic-tac-toe boards at patient and family request.

· To add color, I press the tip of the marker into the dough. For a smooth, even color you knead the dough until the color is evenly distributed. For a “swirled” look, just knead a couple times and then roll and flatten.

shapes-and-colors

· You can also color on the patient’s fingertip with the marker, then press it into the white dough. That also looks spectacular! I’ve fallen out of the habit, as the nurses prefer I don’t ink the patient’s fingers. When doing fingers, I try to avoid red (as it may look like blood, especially in trauma cases), and I try to avoid blue (lest it get on the nail and be mistaken for a sign of cyanosis!)

· Place the shapes onto a clipboard, or other portable hard surface, and press the patient’s finger into the dough. If a family has asked for multiples, I’ll often shape them all and line them up, then press the finger into each, all on one go. This efficient process is especially helpful if the patient is very tired, and won’t have the endurance to offer up a finger every two minutes as each new shape is prepped. I also prefer this when doing them in the morgue with a patient who has already died – both because it’s faster and the morgue tends to be very chilly. If you have to work within the cooler, the dough can get stiff when cold, so I will set them all up on the clipboard outside the cooler, pop in and press the fingers, then back out to make the holes.

press-the-finger

· After pressing the finger, use the coffee straw to make a small hole near the top (this is used to string the medallion on a necklace, if desired. (or key chain, or no hole for a pocket stone, etc.)

· The finished items air dry over the next 24 hours. I will often place them in a kidney basin for safe transport. If I’m doing a whole bunch, I’ll slid a piece of cardboard into a “sheet protector” sleeve, and place the patient’s ID sticker on the cardboard inside. Then line of up the finished medallions on top to dry. This way the family can carry the full bunch without them smooshing together. I learned the hard way – do NOT put them on paper to dry!!

· Really large pieces (like full hand prints) can warp a bit as they dry.

· Photos show one of my favorite combinations of shape and swirl color. Toddlers love to help by stabbing the dough with market tips. And then knead-twice-and-roll lets them press all the colors in without it combining to a greyish-brown.

diy-fingerprint-molds

· To start the dough feels like a cross between play dough and a marshmallow. Once dry it is light like Styrofoam, with a smooth surface.

Other questions that came up…

You can do these on adults, kids, babies. For peri-natal loss situations with super early babies that have not yet grown much in the way of skin . . . I’m not sure. I haven’t tried this. The dough is not “sticky” so I am hopeful that it would work. If someone tries it, please post back and let us all know!

For newborns and preemies, one packet would be more than enough to do a baby foot print. But remember that larger pieces can warp a bit while drying. I’ve had some (but not perfect success) flipping the piece over every couple hours while it dries, to reduce the warp.

No baking needed – they air dry.

I color it while making it. I have never tried coloring it afterward. Again, if someone tries it, please post back and share the info!

Creative child lifers, post your photos to the thread and share your ideas for styles, use of color, shapes, etc.

Teresa Schoell, MA, CCLS

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