Children who are military connected have unique needs and experiences compared with their peers of similar ages. These experiences tend to include frequent moves, prolonged separations, and deployments of family members (Heubner, 2018). Along with the deployment of a parent can come many stressors. Such stressors can include prolonged family separation, potential injury or death of a service member, and traumatic experiences, which can have a cumulative negative effect on the entire family unit (Heubner, 2018). This information paired with stressful healthcare experiences for children and families lead Standish Foundation for Children to create the Military Kids Program (SF4C 4 MilKids).
This program aims to transform the healthcare experience for military children through play, education and family support. Specifically, Standish Foundation’s 4 MilKids program provides support through donations and programming specific for children of military families seeking medical care in military hospitals. Since the induction of SF4C 4 MilKids program, we have provided donations of toys, games, coping and distraction items to several child life programs at military hospitals.
Currently, we are working on rolling out a new program feature, “coping care packages”, for Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) to provide to patients and their families at military hospitals. The purpose of these kits are to provide distraction items and coping strategies, to help staff engage and promote stress reduction techniques, to maintain infection control standards and to empower parents to help children manage stress. The kits will be developmentally appropriate and preassembled for children ages 0-18 and their families, grouped by developmental stage and gender. Each kit will contain key aspects in stress reduction (distraction, self-expression, physical comfort, relaxation and focus) by providing stress reduction tools to provide children and families the opportunity to play and to have a positive hospital experience. These therapeutic tools/toys prompt the identified coping behaviors that help distract, encourage relaxation and deep breathing, provide comfort, require focus and foster communication and self-expression.
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To learn more about SF4C 4 Milkids email us at [email protected]
Author: Lisa McWhorter, MS, CCLS, CPMT
CDR Huebner, CR. Health and Mental Health Needs of Children in US Military Families. Pediatrics. 2018;143