Superheroes are prevalent in children's lives and the lure of the superhero isn’t just limited to young boys playing out the roles of Spider-Man or Iron Man. Remember Supergirl and Wonder Woman? Regardless of gender, the role of the superhero can be an important one in a child’s life and something that child life specialists can tap into to help facilitate coping and give a sense of empowerment to a child struggling with an illness.
Heartwarming stories of superheroes have been in the news and were spread among the child life community like wildfire. There are the superhero window washers , the little boy who was batman for a day , the touching visual of superheroes who were pallbears at a young childs funeral and the announcement from Marvel about the new custom comic book that will be distributed to children’s hospitals.
Superheroes allow us to imagine “what if...?” They give us a glimpse into what it would be like to have the power to change that which seems impossible. They show us a level of bravery that most people don’t have the need to call upon in everyday life and aren’t these the exact things we are asking of our patients everyday? To be brave when it comes time to get that blood draw, CT scan or to undergo surgery? To draw from a strength that they didn’t know they had to handle something that seems impossible?
The power of storytelling is a wonderful therapeutic tool so why not let the child be the superhero in their own story, quite literally. Maybe the child going through cancer treatment is Rodney the Radiator, eliminating rogue cancer cells to save the planet or Ina, the Queen of Insulin who rules the kingdom of Glucose Land. Let the child guide you through the story of their superhero and adapt therapeutic activities from it. For instance, if Rodney the Radiator uses a shield, the child could make the shield from art materials, bringing the character and the story out even more. What does Glucose Land look like? What powers does Ina the Queen have? Provide the child with a large sheet of paper to draw out her kingdom. Is there anything that the heros are afraid of and what helps them be brave? Who can they count on during hard times? The possibilities for storytelling are unlimited and opportunities for empowerment are there so let the story begin!