When the COVID pandemic began, volunteers began making masks. And more masks. And more masks. They were in high demand and gratefully accepted. They were used by staff, patients, and visitors in all areas as the system began to adjust to pandemic rules and restrictions. But, as vaccines rolled out and mask mandates lifted (outside of healthcare facilities), there was no longer a need for more masks. Our mask makers, who love to sew and love to help others, were approached with a new idea for their creativity outlets – worry monsters.
What is a worry monster?
A worry monster is a stuffed animal or creature with a zipper for a mouth. Kids can write down their worries on a piece of paper, open the zippered mouth pouch and zip it shut – there goes the worry, the anxiety, the fear. Later, the family member, a friend or a hospital staff can open the mouth, pull out the paper and address the concerns.
“Kids love it, for starters, it’s kind of like a stuffed animal,” explains Katie. “They are adorable and cute and squishy and it’s really easy for kids to use their imaginations and imagine that worry monster gobbling up their worries so they can move on to something else.”
“There was a week where we had quite a few very, very anxious kids,” Katie continues. “We were able to talk through those worries. It helped them cope better in the hospital, it helped them move past those things that were really scary and figure out things that we could do concretely to make it easier for them.”
Just for kids?
The popular monsters are now used in other areas of the hospital and system, bringing as much relief to adults as they do to kids.
Katie continues, “We pass them out in pediatrics, in our burn unit, in our pediatric ICU, in our adult ICUs, in our addiction medicine program, in our mother-baby program and other areas. It’s throughout the system we’ve been using them. When we’ve had such a rough year and a half any little bright speck, anything positive anything that can help is a great tool.”
Katie O’Hearn is a Child Life Specialist at Hennepin Healthcare.