For Families In Panic Or Calm, Dealing With Kids Sick Or Well

Haunted House to Fun House

Haunted house

I sense a trap!

Hospital environments and therapeutic spaces

Some places have a special aura, it can be the magic warmth and buzz of a friendly group of people. It can be a natural green space. It can also be a familiar spot, with special memories. Perhaps an interior with ordered calm that contains charm in anything from window design, to furniture or pleasing pictures. These things invite. Here we relax. It may invigorate and encourage play. Through play and relaxation we renew and heal. This is true whether we’re a seasoned adult or a small child

Hospitals are often necessarily stark with bright lights, machinery and little personal touches/ charm. It is hard to strike a balance and achieve holistic healing when their are important medical duties to perform.. But sometimes when there is effort to provide sanctuary there is success.

My child and I recently visit a new treatment room in a well funded central hospital. But we are underwhelmed by what we see. Not only that, it feels alienating. Large-scale gaudy, smiley Disney characters don’t do it for us, and produce the same revulsion many feel for clowns or china dolls. The theme of many scary horrors, (think Stephen King’s IT). What a shame! No plants, not even fake plants to cater for those kids with problematic immunity. For fake plants if artfully chosen and arranged can do a good job of tricking our minds to relax.

A green field and trees

Green space helps us breathe more freely

But natural materials, harmonious colour schemes or interesting details of object and general design, sublety seduce us and enable healing to occur more readily.
We may not notice consciously but we notice. We are animals after all, wired to scour our environment to discover lucky opportunities and threats. We are sensitive and respond. A space too enclosed or too wide open without shelter spots can unnerve us, creating claustrophobia or mild agoraphobia. Spaces too uniform or sparse, too noisy or bright make us tense.- Do you catch my drift? Do you agree?

We’ve had some magic experiences in hospital. Yes really. Strong friendships with the staff can happen.
Exciting craft sessions have taken place at tiny tables – even when toddlers and young-uns wait to undergo frightening treatments with tubes and needles inserted in them. Incredible. How is it possible?- to calm a terrified child. The right kind of distraction and engagement can pull a child through the most difficult experience.

I visit my 80 year old aunt in a rehabilitation ward. She has a lovely view in her room but the bed faces in the opposite direction. She never gets to see it. She fights her depression as well as her injuries without this small buffer of watching the aged trees, do their swaying dance in the wind, leaves changing from green to red and gold in autumn glory. Such details matter as they help comfort, strengthen or balance.

We’re all a little crazy. We’re all a little broken. We’re all insecure in some way. We’re all struggling. Many of us are searching for some mooring and for validation. In hospital or out, sick or well. Emotions run high at times when important things are at stake. Friends and a developed sense of humour can help us along. But an environment can reassure us too or make us smile.

Child's play space

Inviting space

A hospital is in many ways a haunted house that traps us in a scary world – even when saving our lives.
The staff instinctively know this and learn which patients to ease with jokes and winks and which to quietly reassure with listening ear or gentle touch.

One day my son sat at an art table with fellow patients he had befriended. The room was over-stuffed with families, furniture and medical paraphernalia. A young harpist climbed inside the middle of the throng and proceeded to play. His repertoire included popular Disney themes and pop hits. It was cheerful. It was beautiful. The harp is such a breathy, emotive instrument and he made it sing. The atmosphere was warm and uplifting. My eyes welled up. I couldn’t easily stop the flow of tears. Am I a sentimental fool? Absolutely. But for me the moment was transcendent.

I wish for more of that in life. Especially in difficult situations. However small any positive gesture may be and in whatever form. It has the power to morph a haunted house into a calm house or even a fun house.

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