Kindness rocks: Connecting to each other and to home

Kindness rocks at Boston Children's Hospital
"Taking the time to paint a rock for someone else, kind of tricked me into self-care. I had no idea how much I needed this quiet moment,” says a parent who recently painted a rock in the ninth-floor resource room.

I’m proud of you.”

You’re so strong.”

Keep your sunny side up!

These are some of the messages painted on rocks in the ninth-floor resource room at Boston Children’s Hospital. The idea to paint rocks started last spring with two “bored mamas,” says Shari Mendler, who runs the resource room for parents and caregivers of inpatient children. They snuck in a few rocks from the driveway outside the hospital, and painted messages of hope and love for their children and each other.

Today, in celebration of World Kindness Day and inspired by the Kindness Rocks Project, Shari, together with the managers of the sixth and eighth floor resource rooms, will host a rock painting activity for interested parents, caregiver and patients.

Family Resource Rooms at Boston Children’s Hospital offer inpatient families a welcoming space to take a break from bedside. In addition to weekly special events, information, snacks, books and games, resource rooms offer creative and integrative health activities with caregiver relaxation, connection and empowerment in mind.

The activity aligns well with the mission of the resource room staff. “We ask ourselves, ‘In addition to excellent medical care, what do families need to feel supported and fully present in their child’s health journey?’” explains Shari. “We begin answering this by offering parents and caregivers opportunities to feel heard, to take space or to connect, and to make time for self-care.”

Shari and others notice that even little moments of choice, like painting, sharing or finding a stone of encouragement, can shift a parent’s own sense of well-being, decrease stress and, in turn, increase their ability to be present and to thrive.

Painting kindness rocks at Boston Children’s Hospital offers a supportive exchange between families and caregivers.

Thanks to the hard work of two special patients, no one needs to sneak in rocks this time. Eleven-year-old twins Sophie and Maddie and their “Gramps” collected over 240 rocks from the coast of Maine and drove them to Boston so that families could participate today.

Their mother, Katie Litterer, Family Partnerships coordinator at Boston Children’s, knows how important it is to connect with other families and stay positive while in the hospital. Her daughters were born premature at 27 weeks and have spent many months inpatient at Boston Children’s.

Maddie collecting rocks in Maine for a project at Boston Children's Hospital
Sophie collects rocks in Cape Split, Maine. “This is a very special place off the beaten path where you see seals swimming amongst the lobster boats and bald eagles flying overhead,” says her mom, Katie. “Oftentimes, you are the only person on the beach and the water is crystal clear, though very cold!”

Rinsed, cleaned and approved by Infection Control, Maddie and Sophie’s rocks now line a file cabinet in the resource room, ready to be painted. Shari has been amazed to see families from all over the world enjoying the rocks, even without the paint, perhaps because they represent a bit of nature in an otherwise sterile environment.

“Families run their hands over the stones and are reminded of the rivers and beaches near their homes” she says. “The rocks help them find a connection with each other, with the generosity of giving something of themselves to encourage another, and with home.”

Learn about other Patient and Family Resources.

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