In this current changing world where it feels like our secure footings are suddenly moving,  Helen Shepherd, Senior Social Worker at Princess Alice Hospice, has been thinking about how to keep the connections open and alive for all the children that she works with and usually sees at the Hospice.

There is a real mix of children who attend, some recently bereaved and some whose parents died over five years ago, but what they all love is being part of a group where everyone is the same and where it is ok to talk about your mum/dad in a normal way without people feeling awkward – a real sense of belonging.   Initially it felt as if there might be a long period of time with nothing happening and the children might be left feeling a bit lost, so action was needed to make sure that this didn’t happen.

I am ok with day to day technology, but the idea of zooming up to 15 children did put me in a bit of a panic! In addition to the internal pressure of wanting to get it right, make it fun and interesting and as similar as our normal sessions as possible.   After contacting all of the parents it did seem that there was interest, so the first date was decided, 14th April, and chose to talk about a ‘first aid kit’ that is ‘ what makes you feel better on a bad day’ and made my own one up (including talking to friends, gardening, reading, driving my car) which I sent to everyone so they knew what we would be talking about.

For the first session, eight children (just over half), aged 7-10 all joined and it was lovely to see them all together, saying hi to each other and sharing how life was for them at the moment – trampolining, playing and a lot of gaming!  Some said that they were worried about their parents, especially those that were working (one is a keyworker in hospital), not seeing their family and also missing school.  We talked about zoom etiquette, but they all knew about putting their hands up and waiting – they seemed old hands.  We talked about how often to meet up and decided on every other week with me sending through a worksheet with an activity – something to think about for the session which I asked them all to complete and make into a book for us all to share when we get together.  We finished the session with some questions that I had written on the back of some wallpaper (very Blue Peter) where they had to pick a number – they ranged from ‘what do you look for in a friend, what is your favourite food, is there a day you would change? – so very varied which they all liked.

I have had two first aid kits back and also had a lovely comment from one of the mums – ‘It was lovely and a good mix of chat about the parents they’ve lost as well as what they’ve got.  We’re working on our first aid kits, I’m doing one too and it’s started lots of lovely conversations.  Thank you. ‘

Attached are the completed first aid kits and also the questions used – we are going to end all the sessions with the questions as it was fun and lively.

We have our next session on 28th April and are going to be doing a ‘Worry pizza’ – mine is already completed.  Having these sessions every other week is keeping me busy and keen to keep the sessions fun, relevant and useful and also to make sure everyone knows that, although we are not meeting in person, we are still together in everyone’s mind.