Following the heels of yesterday's post, I had to share a little moment from today.
I was asked by a coworker, a nurse, to help out with a patient. This preschool aged boy, we'll call him John (Read: not his real name) had just found out that he was in fact not going home today and thus would not get to visit his favorite relative. He was sitting in the room, alone, pouting, and refusing to do anything he was asked. AKA let's call the child life specialist and see if she can work her magic.
No pressure or anything.
I entered the room and sat on his bed giving him choices of activities: art, blocks, puzzles, video games, movies, everything met a flat refusal. As he threw a pillow across the room, his pent up anger obvious and I decided I needed to give him an outlet for letting out his emotions. I racked my brain with some of the options... building a tower of blocks that we could then knock down, seems a bit dangerous to have hard objects that could be thrown, playing voice games where we get to scream our heads off sleeping baby next door, nope, Making a frustration journal, nope a bit too mature for this kid... and then it came to me.
I simply stood up and promised I would be back in a minute. (Child life 101: easiest and fastest tactic for establishing a relationship with a patient is to promise to return, leave, and then come back.. Trust and follow through demonstrated in one easy motion. Bonus points if you promise to return with an item (i.e. toys, prizes, movies) and come through).
I grabbed a piece of paper, drew a simple bulls-eye target with sharpie, came back in the room and taped it on the wall. As a I grabbed a magic marker John sullenly told me 'I don't want to do arts and crafts"
"Well good, you're not going to, this is for me. So can you tell me... what is making you angry right now?"
"I want to go to (insert relative);s house"
"Ok" I say as I write it down on our target. "What else?"
Following his prompts I wrote the few things he came up with and then promptly put the marker down, nonchalantly went to the 10 ml syringe I had previously filled with water, took a few steps back from the wall, and proceeded to squirt the water, full blast, at the wall and target, splashing both of us, the window, and the mirror in the process.
I wish I had a camera to document the look on his face.
He was so totally shocked by what I had just done that he completely forgot to keep up the 'tough guy' act. Not what you were expecting me to do at all huh?
"Do you want to try?"
Eager nod, happy smile, bounding out of bed to try his hand at squirting away his anger. We then proceeded to work on tinting the water, making squirt art, learning our colors and mixing the primaries, and eventually talking about his admission. I won't say he didn't have more tantrums throughout the day, but at least the throwing things stopped!
Moral of the story: You will NEVER beat kids in the "who can be the most sullen and angry" contest; you have the change the game. Nothing changes the game quicker than doing something totally unexpected, like shooting water at the wall.
Child life specialist FTW
Side note.. it's been a good week. I don't get to say that often. Honestly, life has been frustrating and somewhat overwhelming for the past few months, and work hasn't helped. A mixture of difficult cases including the passing of a patient with whom I was close, administrative pressures, policy changes, budget cuts, it all adds up to a stressed out Bethany. But... it's been a good week. Multiple happy cases, encouraging news programming wise at work, and opportunities to spend quality time with amazing friends. It's a brief reprieve from the negativity that has surrounded me lately... but I'll take it.