Contributed by Michelle Hassler
For an injured or sick child, being away from home is a scary thing. Experiencing pain and discomfort while in a strange place with unfamiliar people can a traumatic experience – especially with the number of tests and treatments that can occupy the day. Whether your child is in recovery or receiving treatment, hospital stays are physically exhausting and mentally draining for all involved. However, there are several ways that you can help to comfort your child during an extended hospital stay to make their experience as positive and comfortable as possible.
With the luxury of mobile devices, your child can frequently chat with siblings who may be far away or exchange photos with friends. Your older child may want to check in with a friend from school or your little one may delight in watching a short video of the family pet. These small moments allow your child to feel connected to their loved ones and reassured that life at home is awaiting them.
Hospital stays can seem like an endless period of waiting sprinkled with tests, medications, and questions. Establish new routines that will help to break up the day and provide entertainment. Reading a story every morning after breakfast or playing a board game every afternoon will help to provide structure and comfort. If your child is in school, establish a time in the day that is designated for academics. There will be a greater chance of getting things done and it will help to pass time in a constructive way. If your child is receiving a treatment for a specific period of time, consider creating a daily countdown calendar.
Begin Something Together
Depending on your child’s age and interests, there are projects and activities that you can do together to pass the time and enjoy each other’s company. Tackle a challenging puzzle, work your way through an activity book, or create a hospital-friendly craft. Also, do not underestimate the enjoyment of being read to – especially for your older child. Chapter books are available at a wide variety of reading and age levels. If you have a preteen or teenager, you could share a chapter a day from a young adult novel. Also, with Netflix and other types of streaming, it is easy to introduce a new television series. Allow your child to choose a new, age appropriate program and watch it together.
As a parent, having your sick child admitted to the hospital can be one of the scariest and most stressful experiences of your life. Keep track of your child’s current condition, possible symptoms, upcoming procedures, and medication schedules. Feeling informed regarding your child’s care will help you feel some semblance of control in a difficult situation. Keep a notebook handy so it is easy to jot down information as doctors and nurses are in and out of the room. If your child has questions, being able to provide some type of an answer will be reassuring to your child. Also, if your child has non-urgent questions that you cannot answer, encourage your older child (if able) to make a list to ask the medical staff. Pediatric doctors and nurses should be able to explain things in a way that your child will understand.
Just being there to talk, play, or hold your child’s hand will provide the greatest comfort. Showing your child that they are not alone and are cradled in your unwavering love and protection is invaluable. With that said, you need to be sure to take care of yourself so you have the energy and mental clarity to care for your child during this time. Find and accept the help and support of others. Allow relatives or close friends to spend time with your child so you can slip out to take a shower, run errands, or pay some bills. If your child has the energy and ability, it will be nice to visit with different people during hospital visiting hours. Consider creating a Lotsa Helping Hands Community to let people know how they can support your family. Perhaps you need help with simple tasks such as throwing in a load of laundry or fetching groceries. If you have other children at home, asking for help driving them to activities or providing meals would be a great way to help.
Depending on your child’s condition, there are different ways to help make the hospital stay as comfortable as possible. As a parent and caregiver, nothing tugs at the heart like seeing your sick child feel pain or discomfort. Continue to provide unconditional love and care, encourage smiles, and invoke hope for a healthy, bright future.