Hospitalisation is stressful. It is so for adults and more so for children. The stresses imposed by hospitalisation may precipitate uncharacteristic behaviours and emotions in children, which in turn may become a major source of stress for their parents. Research has demonstrated that humour that provokes laughter has both psychological and physiological effects. Humour in hospitals helps patients and their families deal with anger and other emotions that they may experience. It can also “soften” hospitals that are almost always sterile, impersonal and isolating places.
Accordingly, a theatre was erected in Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The play combines story telling, humorous insights and a message for sick children. It aims to empower and encourage them to face their ordeal, in and out of the hospital, with courage and self-acceptance.
Children were interviewed, along with their parents before and after they watched the play and were asked why they chose to attend the play, what did they find particularly interesting, which of the characters did they identify with and what did the play mean to them in the light of their illness and hospitalisation.
Results indicated that parents derived quite a lot of satisfaction seeing their sick children laugh and cheer the actors. The children themselves indicated a significant preference for the play characters that were able to overcome obstacles and make the best of the situation.