As the final leaves fell to the ground and temperatures started to plunge here in the Midwest, I started thinking about what it’s like for families in the hospital during the holidays. Not only does it disrupt normal routine, but it also can cause ripples in new or recurring special holiday traditions. I can remember a time working in the ICU when a family felt torn about what to tell their young and very ill child who was asking if he would miss Christmas - if Santa would know where he was. They ended up telling him Christmas Day was actually shortly after he returned home and not to worry, he didn't miss it. I always wondered about how his slightly older siblings handled it and crossed my fingers that a family member, hospital employee or any other stranger didn't accidentally spoil it for him. I'm going to choose to believe it was a happy ending.
Disclaimer: This is my family's first year with Elf on the Shelf and most nights he doesn't put in this much effort. Our kids are still very little and my nearly 3 year old is amazed by our elf, “Simon,” simply perched up in a new spot each morning. But the fact is that creating these fantasy set-ups was actually very therapeutic for me, particularly on a day that I was feeling stressed. The hole punching and cutting was a bit cathartic. I couldn't help but wonder if it was a tiny taste of what Chip Gaines feels like on demo day?!
Medical art making is an intervention commonly introduced by child life specialist and art therapists. It is a wonderful opportunity to create or explore medical items to escape the pain, worry, and other negative feelings one might have when a loved one is hospitalized. It’s often a novel activity for many kids and I’m always amazed when their creativity takes flight. And it is also therapeutic for elves and adults, too!
I don’t want it to come off that they are not busy with the most important role of keeping your child safe and restoring their health, but in my experience unit nursing staff are full of holiday spirit and are always willing to help a family the best they can. Your nurse or unit secretary/coordinator might be able to help gather unused or expired medical items or art supplies for your family Elf. It's okay to ask.
I hope this helps any other elves out there who are ill or injured and need some playful inspiration. Wishing you all happy and healing wishes this holiday season.
Would you like to see more of what Simon is up to "in the hospital?" Has your elf had fun or caused mischief using medical items? Comment below!