When a child is hospitalized, an enormous amount of stress is placed on a family. Routines are disrupted and much of the attention shifts toward the patient. Research has shown that this is often at the expense of siblings, who are at an increased risk of suffering emotional and psychological distress. That’s why UC Davis Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialists, Jessica Vroman and Joanna Davis, created the Sib Sack program.
“Siblings experience significant changes when hospitalization occurs. These children feel left out or even resentful,” Davis said. “Sib Sacks were developed to help address the unique needs of patients’ brothers and sisters, particularly in the NICU where siblings can’t visit and parents often spend more time at the baby’s bedside than at home. This program was designed to foster positive coping skills and normalize the hospital experience for the whole family.”
Funded by a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals grant, the Sib Sack includes items like a “Worry Eater”, a stuffed monster with a zippered mouth that encourages siblings to write down their fears and place them in the Worry Eater’s mouth to be eaten up. Each sack also includes a coloring book, crayons, a small notebook, a stress ball, a superhero cape, and a Beads of Courage sibling kit.
By creating a more inclusive, family-centered experience during hospitalization, Davis hopes to further improve the high quality care UC Davis Children’s Hospital and the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department provide on a regular basis.
“By incorporating siblings’ specialized needs into our care plan, we demonstrate to the entire family that we value each individual and realize hospitalization affects more than just the patient,” Vroman said. “Sib Sacks are a way to recognize and validate feelings and help foster communication, creativity, self-expression and most importantly, strengthen family ties. Although we just started giving the Sib Sacks out this year, the response has been great! Patient families appreciate knowing that we’re thinking of everyone, not just the sick or injured child.”