By Gina Lozito
Child Life Specialist, CCLS
For the past few years, I decided that every year I am going to pick one new and different thing for me to try. As the Child Life Specialist on the pediatric in-patient Hematology/Oncology unit, I am often asking and helping kids to do something they wouldn’t have normally picked to do. Asking kids to hold still as a statue while someone pokes them to get blood or saying “you’ll need to take your medicine that may make you feel sick to help you get better even though you don’t really feel sick in the first place” seems unfair. However, helping a child truly understand what is happening, why it’s happening and how they’re going to get through it can really make all difference in the world to the child.
For parents, having a child in the hospital is something they wouldn’t normally choose to do, too. In the hospital, every parent is having an experience they would have never imagined could have happened. This goes for any family that has come to the hospital unexpectedly. We ask parents to help us care for their child during a time that, for the parent, is their worst nightmare. If your child has a serious illness or injury, the responsibility that falls to you is unquestionably intense. Nevertheless, parents meet these responsibilities willingly. Most parents say they would switch places with their sick child in a heartbeat. Instead they provide, in every conceivable way, all the help they can to get their child through this situation. For many parents, this may be the hardest thing they have ever done before.
Here are some tips to help you help your child through these tough times:
- Stay organized. Keep all the information, research, and patient education materials you’ve accumulated about your child’s illness in one place, this could be a folder or binder. Make sure you include medications, phone numbers, and insurance information. When you think of questions for your health care team, write them down right away in a notebook so you won’t forget to ask.
- Take breaks. It’s necessary to frequently schedule time for yourself, even for just an hour or two. If you can, try to get away from the hospital. Let a family member, friend, or a health care provider stay with your child. Once you are away, that time is yours, don’t feel guilty about how you spend it. Have coffee with a friend, go shopping, whatever allows you to unwind.
- Eat right. Existing on coffee and hospital food can leave you feeling exhausted and run down. If friends offer to bring homemade meals to your home or to the hospital to help out, take them up on their offer.
- Let other people help. If someone says, “Is there’s anything I can do…” tell them. Friends and relatives most likely will want to help, but they might not be sure what you need. Make a list of some of the things that may need to be done, such as; mow the lawn, pick up a sibling at practice, feed the goldfish or just come sit with you in the hospital. You will be surprised at how useful it can make a loved one feel when they do something specific to help you and your child.
Ask any parent who has taken care of a sick child and you’ll find out something very important. You are not alone.