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Celebrate Child Life Month – What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child Life Specialists are teachers, support, advocates, therapeutic touch, art buddies, child development specialists, story tellers, positive influences, toy drive organizers, de-coders of medical language, empathizers, distraction providers, cartoon experts, volunteer managers and skilled listeners.

Child Life Specialists aim to reduce any negative effects of hospitalization on children and their families by reducing stress and anxiety. When I asked one of Swedish's child life specialists about their work, she said they feel very lucky to work in a healthcare system that cares so well for our young patients and families.

To help illustrate the work of Child Life Specialists, enjoy this poem (by Steve Slowinski).

What I’m not:

A nurse.
A doctor.
A social worker.

A “Keeper of the Toys.”
A magical “make-this-kid-not-cry” person.
Only someone to play with the kids.

I’m not superfluous.

What I am:

I am a teacher,
A helping hand,
A support,
An advocate,
An active listener,
A therapeutic touch,
And a child development specialist
Every.
Single.
Day.

I am an OR prep-er,
An IV teacher,
A de-coder of PICC, VCUG, MRI and NG,
A distraction provider,
An inpatient support,
And a guide and voice for siblings
All in the same day.

I am calm despite cancer, CAT scans, and catheters.
I am strong in the face of syncope, sickle cell, and surgery.
Kids can’t always do these things for themselves.
That’s why I’m here ...

Are You Ready?

When we imagine having children, we have these images of ‘having a baby’. The sweet bundle all swaddled, snuggling, and sleeping peacefully in their crib whilst we gaze lovingly, and then we quietly tip-toe out of the nursery and off to our own bed.

Then reality hits. Babies cry. Diapers explode. Breasts leak. Exhaustion hits. And just when we think we’re getting the hang of it, they grow. Their abilities change. Their needs change. Their brains develop. That sweet baby turns into a defiant toddler, that turns into a messy child, who then turns into a smelly teenager (it’s just the hormones, it’ll pass).

We give our lives over to our children. Every thing we do, every decision we make, we take them into account. There is a fantastic quote by Sophia Loren, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice: once of herself and once for her child.”

Now, we could debate parenting styles but the more important point is how do you know if you’re ready to potentially live your life for that little baby? How do you know, before you have a baby?

Organized sports activities: safety and benefits

A lot of children are now enrolled in organized sports activities, and more and more children are starting at a younger age. Children are enticed by successful professional sports players and strive to be like them. Many parents enroll their children in organized sports activities with the hope that their child would get an athletic scholarship for college and go on to become a professional player. However, parents must realize that only a few children end up becoming successful professional players.

It is important for children to be physically active, and organized sports can be a part of this healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that children and adolescents who are physically active do well academically in school, have greater self-esteem, sleep well and have less behavioral/emotional problems. Children and adolescents who are active every day tend to develop less health problems like hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia , and grow to become healthy adults.

Here are some important ideas to keep in mind when your child is enrolled in organized sports activity:

68 going on 17

Ruth Ballweg will turn 68 this year, but because of her leap day birthday, she is really turning 17! Ruth provides some insight into her life growing up as a leap year baby.

Dr. Dorcas McLennan, director of the Swedish Ballard OB/GYN unit in Seattle, WA., also provides expectant or planning parents with some basic tips for their pregnancy, especially around the leap year holiday.

Sweet Dreams?

Sleep is just as important to child development as a healthy diet and exercise, although it is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a child’s life.

As adults, most of us can mutter through on little sleep for a day or so before we get unbearably grumpy, but with kids, their bodies are growing and connecting neurons in the brain all the time. Sleep is absolutely critical for healthy development.

While they sleep their brains are processing and sorting everything they learned that day, and that’s not just the stuff they learned at school; their bodies are honing their fine motor skills and processing the social interactions of the day.

To make sure your child is getting the proper amount of quality sleep, here are some tips:

Car seat safety

Thousands of Americans are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. Motor vehicle crashes kill more people ages 5 to 34 than any other cause of death.

We, as parents and caregivers, can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries due to motor vehicle accidents by making sure children are restrained in their seats, car seats, or booster seats appropriately every time they ride in a motor vehicle.

Here are a few recommendations regarding appropriate use of restraints in different age groups:

Time Flies (Just Breathe)

It’s already February?! If you’re feeling stressed with 2012 passing so quickly, re-visiting this post on stress & the importance of breathing might help (originally posted on Parentelligence here). 

It’s no secret that we’re all just a little stressed these days. Between the economy and information overload on the internet, we have all sorts of things to worry about nowadays. Stress and anxiety can cause physical pain, emotional strain, and strain in your relationships. When you’re stressed, your body is secreting hormones that put you into that ‘fight or flight’ state. Long term, this state will wear on your body.

Our children pick up on our heightened state and become stressed and anxious, too.This is not a good state for children to thrive in. We learn best when we’re comfortable and relaxed, not if we’re nervous and anxious.

Parents need to learn how to regulate their own stress so that we may help our children learn the same coping techniques.

Tips to regulate stress in the immediate moment:

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