Announcement

Bittersweet announcement: Heal Play Love is growing up! We are turning from a baby blog into a grown-up company! In partnership with Jeanette Molineaux, MA, CCLS, CEIM, we have founded Baby in Mind– a company dedicated to the service of parents and children, and to supporting child life specialists everywhere.

Please check us out at: www.babyinmindparenting.com

And thank you all, so much, for all of your encouragement and support, for Heal Play Love, and for this new endeavor!

Tell me your story.

What’s your favorite book?  If you’re anything like me, you’re mentally flipping through a bunch of beloved ones, unable to decide on your absolute favorite.  And that’s a fantastic thing.

Stories are powerful– stories are connections, and they reinforce our bond to one another.  Stories can help us share our life story with other people, and learn from theirs.  Stories start debates, change minds and sometimes, long-held beliefs.  Stories can comfort and inspire us; bring us to tears or anger; and stories can make us immortal.

Stories are told in all cultures, and by all people– they hold cultural significance, and some stories are told and then retold, generation after generation.  Many stories start with, “Do you remember…?” and are shared stories, tying people together with a common memory.

Stories are critical to trauma recovery.  Being able to share the story of a traumatic event with another person– to open one’s self up and recount a moment of desperation and intense vulnerability– this can be one of the greatest steps on the road to recovery.  It allows the survivor to reach for and grab a rescuing hand– the hand of someone who will listen, empathize, and share the weight of this terrible story.

Lastly, stories can help us connect to other people, and to other traumas.  These stories can be powerful, and the farther they spread, the more likely it is that the story can be changed.  Here are a few trauma stories from around the world– watch, listen, and share.

Tell a story, change a mind, join the conversation.

UNICEF music video about the obscenely high rate of child marriage in Chad:

Tens of thousands of children, all under the age of 17, have been released, after being forced to fight for the South Sudan’s Democratic Army.  The UN will be overseeing efforts to return these children to their families and ensure that they receive psychological and physical care, as well as schooling.

“I got to fall in love with him.”  A mother is blind, but was able to see her newborn baby, with some amazing technology!

Five Things About Trauma that May Surprise You

We are back, and focused on trauma– hard to know just where to begin with a topic as nuanced and as endemic as trauma, but here goes– a few things we learned during our research:

1. While the clinical definition of “trauma” refers to the body’s response to a life-threatening event, children’s interpretation of “life-threatening” can look a bit different.  Even if the triggering event was not strictly life-threatening, if the event involved betrayal by someone on whom the child relies for survival, or an event that deeply frightened the child, the trauma can still exist– as can symptoms of PTSD.

2. There are many classifications within the larger topic of trauma– here are a few:

  • Community violence
  • Complex trauma
  • Domestic violence
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Pediatric medical traumatic stress
  • Natural disasters
  • Child neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Refugee and war zone trauma
  • School violence
  • Traumatic grief

3. Unlike adults, many of whom instinctively respond to trauma by pushing away and denying thoughts of the event, young children can respond by re-creating the traumatic event in their play.  This can frighten and worry parents and caregivers, but it can be a critical part of the child’s healing process.  Supporting the child’s play and being close by to correct misconceptions or offer empathic responses can be an important way to help a child make sense of the event and begin to recover a sense of equilibrium.

4. If you’re reading this, chances are good that you are or you know someone in the field of pediatrics– guess what?  Those people are at an elevated risk for PTSD as well, due to the secondary trauma (also called burn-out or compassion fatigue) experienced by those who are exposed to trauma on a regular basis.  Symptoms of PTSD can include: flashbacks/ intrusive thoughts/ nightmares, insomnia, fatigue, avoidance, and an increased startle response or hyper-vigilance.  To minimize the risk of PTSD due to secondary trauma, professionals in pediatrics (and other traumatic occupations) should stay involved with their social support network, practice self-care, and strongly consider working with a mentor for professional guidance and/ or a therapist for emotional support.

5. Recovery is absolutely possible!  The three strategies that have been recommended most are:

  • Don’t isolate yourself, even if that’s what feels easiest.  Ask for support, from a friend, family member, trained professional, support group, or hotline.
  • Try to stay present.  Allow your feelings to be there– acknowledge them, don’t push them away, and then try to return to your daily routine.
  • Take care of yourself!  You’ve heard it all before, but it’s important to get sleep, exercise, eat well, and find ways to cut down on day-to-day stressors.

New Directions for the New Year

For reasons that will become clearer over the next couple of months, I am moving healplaylove’s focus to trauma that affects children.  The articles, resources, and posts will be dedicated to various types of trauma, and the responses that child life and other adults can take to prevent trauma and help children and families recover.

I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks doing research and celebrating the holidays with family and friends.  I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy some time off!

Happy Holidays from healplaylove!

Five Things

1. The Child Life Council released a “December Child Life Survival Guide.”  It offers tips for surviving the season, and while probably every adult could use some help during December (the malls!  The company holiday parties!  The pressure to find the right gifts!  The total decimation of the monthly budget!), I think child life specialists may need a bit of additional support (all of the previously mentioned stressors plus: planning the pediatric unit’s holiday party!  Planning the sixteen corporate events!  Getting all of the donations sorted!  Finding someone to cover the floor on December 25!).  

2. PBS published a great article on ways to help children cope with angry feelings.  It’s based on, and references, some of the great work that Fred Rogers did for children.  Highly recommend!  

3. Light Spinner Quarterly released a YouTube short about the important work of play and imagination for kids in the hospital.  It’s very sweet, and inspiring!  

4. Someone came up with a great event for typically-developing kids: a “drive-in” movie night!  How awesome would this be to plan for a hospital unit’s playroom?? 

5. LASIK.  It’s like magic– and I’ll be getting my very own laser eyes this week, so during that day and the recovery day afterwards, I may be absent from the internets.  I will miss you!  And will see you very soon!

Five Things: Dedicated to World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and while immense progress has been made in de-stigmatizing, treating, and managing this disease, the number of people infected in the US is upwards of 1.2 million, and globally, that number is 34 million. 

Today’s Five Things is dedicated to the men, women, and children battling this illness personally, and to all of the healthcare workers, epidemiologists, child life specialists, scientists, philanthropists, researchers, and all others out there working tirelessly to eradicate this scourge of a disease, once and for all.

Five Facts About AIDS

1. 25% of new HIV infections in the US are among those aged 13-24 years.

2. One in six people living with HIV do not know that they are infected, and can unknowingly pass along the virus.

3. Black and African-American people are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS diagnoses.  (Let’s be clear here– in this country, to our shame, race is inextricably linked to socioeconomic status, and many of our black and African neighbors and fellow citizens are not able to afford the necessary treatments and medical care that would help to decrease their HIV/AIDS infection rate.  Access to education is a compounding factor, but one that I will leave to other pens for today at least.)

4. Gay and bisexual men continue to be the group most severely affected by HIV and AIDS.  While other groups’ infection rates have dropped over the past few years, this group’s infection rate has climbed 12% since 2008, and the greatest number of new infections in this group is among young black and African-American males, ages 13-24.

5. There are still dangerous and rampant myths spread about HIV and AIDS worldwide, including, but not limited to: that mosquitoes spread AIDS; that intercourse with a virgin will cure AIDS, which has led to countless rapes and further infection; and that HIV can be spread through casual contact with an infected person.  We have better access to information and the means to spread it than ever before in humankind’s history– let’s harness it and shout the truth from the rooftops!

Five Things You Can Do to Help

1. Get tested.  Encourage friends and family members to get tested.  Always practice safe sex.

2. Support drug treatment programs, and support needle exchanges.  No healthy person likes the idea of intravenous drug use, or the idea of encouraging it, but it’s happening– let’s not compound the already significant problem with spreading a fatal disease.

3. Inform yourself about this illness, so that you can dispel myths when you hear them.

4. Support HIV/AIDS treatment campaigns like “HIV Treatment Works,” “We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time,” and “Start Talking.”  (All resources listed at bottom of page.)

5. Support legislation that empowers everyone to take charge of their health and education– that gives them access to health care, birth control options, necessary medication, drug treatment, and critical health education.  Have important conversations to promote these ideas.

As always, thanks for reading!

Resources

1. http://www.aids.gov/

2. http://www.amsa.org/

3. http://www.avert.org/

4. http://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/campaigns/

#thankful

(I wrote this for another site, Sidelines (https://sidelinesapp.com/item/thankful/), but I wanted to share it with all of you as well!  Thanks, as always, for reading!)

So, I could be cynical and sarcastic, and open this article by talking about how over-used the phrase, “thankful for” is, at this time of year.  For example:

“I just wanted to say how thankful I am for my lovely children, caring husband, and new Lexus.  Also our health.  Of course, our health!”

“I’m thankful for two days off work!  LOLOLOL!  jk”

“#thankful #sleep”

But I won’t.  Whatever the outcome is, the spirit is correct– it’s a lovely idea, to take some time and think about the people, things, and experiences that make our lives rich and joyful and meaningful.  As we head into the holiday season, I hope with all of my heart that you are surrounded by loved ones, that you are healthy and safe, and that you lead a happy, happy life, and that you enjoy celebrating all of it over the next few weeks!

Not everyone is as lucky– we all know this– and in the spirit of gratitude and appreciation, many people give to charities, especially during the month of December.  If you are able, and open to that idea, here are some organizations to consider:

Check out Give Well (http://www.givewell.org/).  It’s an organization that researches charities, and is able to give an open and transparent report on many of them, so that you, the donor, know exactly where your dollars are going.

Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontiers (https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/monthly.cfm?source=AZD140001D56&utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=msf).  Less than 15% of donations go to management costs and fundraising– the rest of the donations go straight into providing emergency medical services for countries in desperate need of assistance.  MSF won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and is one of my favorite charities.

Your local children’s hospital.  When I helped run the pediatrics and child life departments at Harlem Hospital, the holidays were the best time of year– every year, without fail, I was moved to tears by people’s generosity towards our patients.  People from all walks of life– hedge funders to local churches and schools to the exhausted med students and residents– gave.  Generously.  They gave toys, books, wrapping paper, stuffed animals, baby blankets, cozy socks, electronics for the teens, and gift cards.  (Almost all of our population was Christian/ observed Christmas.  Those that did not were given Hannukah or Kwanzaa gifts, of course!)  When kids, literally tethered to their hospital beds, saw a wrapped, bow-bedecked box headed their way, their faces lit up in a way that I can’t describe, but will never forget. 

It’s a wonderful time of year.  Have a fantastic Thanksgiving, everyone!