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On the last track we discussed regression and failure. Regression is an unconscious signal of increased need. These unconscious signals of increased needs are normal, and usually resolve when the children feel that their three fundamental needs are being addressed.
On this track we will discuss coping with visits. This will include reactions during visits, planning for the visit, and leaving children behind.
Reactions During Visits
Dr. Copeland stated, "She was hooked up to machines, and she had changed a lot. The family members were worried. Together we decided it would benefit Mark to come to the hospital. Then we asked Mark if he wanted to visit. He did. When we brought him to the hospital, he walked into the room and whispered, ‘Ahhhh… she looks beautiful.’ He didn’t see the machines as we would because he didn’t understand the meaning of them. He only knew he was being deprived of somebody important. The boy paid attention only to what he cared about; his mother."
I find that children can also introduce humor to a hospital visit. One client’s child yanked down the television and proceeded to delight everyone in the room with a running commentary on the basketball playoffs. Of course a discussion with the child at later point in time may have revealed this sports commentary as avoidant behavior and a need to take care of the adults in the situation. However, the adults in the room may become tense during a visit. Children can pick up on that tension and become uncomfortable or scared.
Planning for the Visit
Do you find, like I do, that a visit that is well prepared for can have numerous beneficial results. Most important, it can calm fears. The husband of one patient explains, "After visiting his mother my nine year old was less frightened about where mommy was. Now when I visit my wife in the hospital, my son knows where I am. He isn’t wondering anymore. He told me that the hospital wasn’t as bad as he thought it was and that Mommy looked better than he imagined."
Also, a visit can bring a child and a patient closer together. Visits can help the child understand what is happening to someone he loves. It can make him feel as though he did something concrete to help. After visiting his mother, the same nine year old stated to his father, "Aren’t you glad we went. Mommy really needed someone to cheer her up."
Leaving Children Behind
Stays at various hotel rooms or with someone they hardly know in a strange city can be especially hard. Would you agree that children do best when they maintain bedtime rituals and other routines? Children who cannot visit their cancer stricken loved one can be encouraged to write letters, send cards, or make a photo album to send along.
On this track we discussed coping with visits. This included reactions during visits, planning for the visit, and leaving children behind.
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