Using Art to Support Children Coping with Illness

Guest Blogger, Caroline Robins at Kids & Art

Kids & Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides art experiences for families touched by pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, to heal, empower, encourage, and create memorable experiences.

Due to COVID, our weekly hospital programs at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Stanford Children’s Hospital were put on hold in March 2020 as were our monthly destination workshops at creative venues. We took our 10 years of experience and our creative resources to be there for our families when they needed us most by creating virtual art workshops as well as amazing art lessons on youtube, to continue healing through the arts. Life was challenging enough for immunocompromised children before COVID. It is even more important to give them access to our workshops now so they can engage, connect, and create with others.

Check out our video about our COVID Response

As our Kids & Art researcher Dawn Linhardt has shared, research has shown that supportive services and therapies such as Kids & Art have been shown to affect stress as demonstrated through decreases in cortisol levels. These interventions are low cost and based on the research have the potential to decrease rates of readmission due to secondary infections.

Stress-relieving interventions such as art are becoming the standard in cancer care within integrative medicine. Preliminary evaluation of data from a study that includes Kids & Art families indicates that the physical symptoms and isolation associated with cancer treatment has a negative effect on the quality of life. We believe that supporting services like ours have the potential to alleviate stress and address the issues of isolation and ultimately improve the quality of life measurements.

Kids & Art is staying true to our mission to always be there for families wherever they are in their treatment. We are delighted to welcome patient families from other states including Alaska, Maryland, Michigan, and Florida as well as our home state of California. Visit our website for more details and a link to register.

What do our workshops include? Along with guided art projects we also include virtual tours of artists’ studios and galleries and invited guest artists. The workshops provide a space for creativity, fun, and stress relief and they bring a sense of togetherness for all ages in a supportive environment.

We have also started a larger Conversation in Improving the Quality of Care by inviting experts from the Art + Health + Innovation space. We have made all these conversations available for free on our YouTube playlist.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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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

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Helping Your Children Return to School After Coronavirus Closures

Guest Blogger, Jenna Sherman of Parent-Leaders

None of us were prepared for the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown, and it’s hard to tell what effect this whole ordeal has had on our children. Now, as schools make plans to reopen, kids and parents have to navigate a whole new set of challenges. Will your children be able to pick up where they left off? Do they need help getting up to speed on their studies? Can you protect your family from COVID-19 when your kids return to their crowded classrooms? Here are some great resources to answer your questions and prepare your kids for a smooth back-to-school transition.

Smoothing the Transition

Your kids may be excited to go back to school, but they may also feel a little overwhelmed by the abrupt change.

  • Encourage your kids to talk about their concerns.
  • Have your children start going to bed earlier a week or two before school starts again.
  • Plan school lunches and weeknight meals ahead of time to reduce household stress.
  • Your child may benefit from the support of a Certified Child Life Specialist.
Learning at Home

Help your children get back on track with their studies by supporting learning at home.

  • Make sure your kids have a calm and quiet place to study at home.
  • Look for teachable moments throughout your daily life.
  • Research at-home educational resources online.
  • Find ways to apply what your kids are learning in school to real-world situations.
  • If you have younger kids, read with them every night.
Avoiding COVID-19

While schools are reopening with special plans in place to protect students and educators, don’t hesitate to take your own COVID-19 precautions. 

  • Send your kids to school with effective hand sanitizer.
  • Make handwashing a fun activity for your kids.
  • Encourage your kids to choose outdoor play when possible.
  • Deep clean and disinfect the surfaces in your home frequently.

It’s okay if your children are worried or anxious about returning to school after such a long and unexpected break. The transition back to school may be easier for some kids than others. Do what you can to help your kids adjust, and they’ll be back in the swing of things soon enough—kids are amazingly adaptable!

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