teddy bearBy Kim Court

Who knew a teddy bear could be so powerful?

Lately, my family and I have been taking more walks and bike rides in our neighborhood. Playdates and get togethers with friends and neighbors have come to a halt. Instead, we’re waving to each other from a safe distance. It’s not the same, but we know it’s what we all must do right now.

Our family is lucky. We have a warm home with plenty of food and we are all healthy. As fortunate as we are, there is also a bit of struggle. I’d be lying if I told you my kids are adjusting to this new situation with ease. They miss their friends, they miss the parks, and they miss the normalcy of getting up early and trudging through a day of school.

During one of our walks last week, my eight year old spotted an unusual but friendly face in a neighbor’s window. It was a teddy bear. She pointed and excitedly told us, “Look! There’s a teddy bear in the window!”

And in that moment, she smiled.

For just a second, she forgot about social distancing and how crazy upside down the world is right now and she smiled.

We kept walking and she spotted another bear. And another. And another. It seems our neighbors are catching on to the trend many communities across the country are embracing. “Teddy bear scavenger hunts”, are popping up all over the country.

Jake’s Tool: The Art of Positive Distraction

There’s a tool Jake talks about often called the Art of Positive Distraction.

It’s a proactive and positive way of distracting a person’s attention away from something that might be unpleasant in the moment and instead direct their attention toward something more positive.

As parents, we do this all the time, right? Think about road trips with small children. In our family, when my kids were younger, we’d have coloring books and markers, snacks, and some small toys to occupy them and distract them from the length of time in the car. And if I’m being perfectly honest, it was a way to avoid the inevitable cries from the back seat asking, “Are we there yet??”

We also distract our kids from things that might bring them discomfort or even pain. This video is a great example of the art of positive distraction — watch how skilled this doctor is at the clinical AND the human side of healthcare, He administers the shot/medication (clinical) with kindness, compassion (human) using the art of positive distraction.

With everything that’s happening in the world right now, it’s easy to put our heads down and focus on just getting through the task at hand.

Stay inside. Flatten the curve. Contain the spread of the virus.

But that’s not what humans are wired for.

We’re wired for connection. We’re wired for love.

I think that’s why we’ve seen images of chalk drawings outside hospitals, cheering on the care teams as they enter and leave the buildings.

ucsf benioff positive distraction

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

And I’m sure that’s why we see hospitals like UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco convert their Accelerated Care Unit, just outside their E.D., to an “out-of-this-world” space theme to screen and care for kids with respiratory symptoms during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Isn’t this just amazing? Imagine how scary it must be for a child and their family to go to the hospital for testing, particularly now when respiratory symptoms may be something more serious and lethal than other infections. Now imagine you are greeted by this friendly team in an area that resembles Mission Control. Tests are still needed. Clinical protocols don’t stop. But for a moment, if this team is able to help the child and their family relax a little, isn’t that worth it? 

The world is scary and uncertain right now.

But if we get a little creative and think of ways we can positively distract from the scariness and the uncertainty, whether with a teddy bear or an out of this world space station, perhaps we can tap into the human connection we all crave. And maybe for a moment, we’ll smile.