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10 Things to Pack For Your Child’s Hospital Stay

10 Things to Pack For Your Child’s Hospital Stay

I’m one of those loyal customers, the kind who likes to stay at the same place over and over again. The rewards program is pretty good – I get a few benefits. Perks include upgraded rooms, no waiting in lines and special treatment, like extra linens, free coffee and being allowed to stay in the room during change-of-shift. Wait, what?

You guessed it. We get points with every hospital stay. Both our children are diagnosed with congenital heart defects #CHD (among other diagnoses). We’ve had more open-heart surgeries and heart procedures than we can count. Our baby girl stayed in the NICU for several months after her birth; she stayed three months after just one of her surgeries. Once, she stayed so long, I had to call AAA to get my car battery jumped when she was discharged. I’m not going to lie: it sucks having a child in the hospital (no matter how minor or serious the diagnosis.) It doesn’t matter the age, most children loathe the hospital. Being a frequent flier, we’ve learned a few things along the way. There may not be a pool or spa, but there is room service and turn-down service at the push of a button. Here’s what to bring to  make the most of your child’s hospital stay:

1. Personal electronics (cell phone, tablet, laptop, e-reader)

Anything and everything that allows you to communicate with the outside world. Most hospitals have free WiFi so be sure to utilize it rather than using your own data. It’s a good idea to have a good virus protection software as well because the WiFi is public (i.e.: probably not the best time to do your online banking). You also need these devices to keep your child busy, entertained and/or relaxed as the hours tick.

2. An extension cord

For real. There’s nothing more aggravating than having to stop in the middle of a movie to plug in your laptop wayyyyyy over there, by the window in the corner of the room, when your child is stuck in bed wayyyyy over here. Be sure to plug electronics into the right outlet. Don’t plug things into red outlets. Save those for hospital stuff. Also, be sure to bring a household cord and not one of those humongous orange commercial ones. It’s a good idea to pick one with a couple of outlets, because – ya know – you need to check Facebook on your phone when your child is watching Frozen for the 347th time.

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3. The right apps (already downloaded)

WHITE NOISE! Find a good white noise app and load it to everything (darn batteries). Hospitals are NOT quiet at night. Whether it’s the staff talking (and laughing and calling out to each other) or it’s the machines beeping in your room or the rooms next door, white noise cranked up will help drown out unwanted sounds. Rain, fan, vacuum… anything plain works awesome. Other apps include voice command (like when you need information fast because you’re snooping and listening to the doctors as they round near the door), games for your child that don’t take too much space, a medical dictionary, a voice recorder in case you need to take notes on something, a flashlight, and your e-mail app.

4. THE list

The list of medications, if any, your child is currently taking. Not only the names, but the doses and concentrations. We have a sheet of paper that has our daughter’s diagnoses (simplified), some of her main surgeries, the names and phone numbers of her main physicians, my husband and my name and phone number, and our medical insurance information. Below this is her schedule of medications so the nurses/physicians know EXACTLY what and when she takes every day. And do everyone a favor – when you list a medication, give the trade name and generic name, the dosage units (which is usually the number after the name and in milligrams or grams or some measure), the administration units (how much your child is supposed to take – like 1 tablet), and any concentration/dosage strength. This is really important.

For example: Furosemide – Lasix, 20mg Tablet, Give 1/2 tablet by mouth 3 times a day. 7am, 1pm, 7pm  (Doctors will want to know this child takes 20 mg Lasix three times a day, whereas you probably say your child takes Lasix three times a day) See the difference?

Seriously. This is SUPER HELPFUL. Make copies and keep it updated with every change.

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5. Second favorite toy/blanket/lovie

I say second because… things get lost. You switch rooms. Bed linens get changed regularly. Emergencies happen. It would be a tragedy if the FAVE lovie went into the trash outside the hospital or into the big washers on the bottom floor (and then in the trash.) If you absolutely have to, then go ahead and bring the numero uno. Just put a piece of tape on it with child’s name. If your child is younger, use a Band Aid and a sharpie and pretend the toy has an owie, too.

6. Personal toiletries

For you and your child. Whatever you both use on your face, your teeth, your hair and your hands, bring it. Baby wipes/face wipes are amazing. Zip Lock those bad boys and label the bag with your child’s name. If you are going to have a long stay and showers are involved, bring a set of cheap flip-flops for the shower. I’m not kidding.

Tip: Ask for a BIG stack of wash cloths and a few extra towels the minute you get settled in the room. You’ll use wash cloths for everything. If the nurse won’t bring them, ask the support staff. We always make friends with the people who clean the room and thank them when they provide us with linens every day without even asking.

7. Books, movies, head phones/ear buds (2 sets) and activities to do in bed

Books are great, but you will probably be reading more than your child. Hospital kids don’t feel well and it takes brain power to read. Most of the time, movies are entertaining and don’t require energy. Even my read-a-holic son prefers movies in the hospital. The hospital has a great collection of DVDs (ask the Child Life Services dept where to find them), but if your child has a favorite (Jurassic World!!!), be sure to bring it along. Headphones are great. Ear buds work as well, but they always break for us and then we’re stuck without them so I always bring a few sets. Note: Hospitals have DVD players, sometimes in the rooms, but in our experience, they’re broken more often than not so we bring a laptop.

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Things like clay kits, old-school card/domino houses, nail design, bracelet-making kits, etc. work well. Anything that can be done on a tray table while sitting in bed. Warning: be careful with projects that contain tiny items like beads because IV and monitor wires/leads will knock things over. 10 million plastic beads in your child’s bed is no fun!

8. Treats/Thank You’s for the staff

A little goes a long way. We bring thank you cards and fancy pens and write notes when someone does something super helpful or goes out of her way. We give them when we’re being discharged. We have “hospital friends” who bring bags of candy to offer the nurses. Hey, if you’re going to Starbucks, ask your nurse if he/she wants something. You’ll get special treatment for life!! It’s your choice, but even a nice note or picture from your child is nice.

9. Pictures (printed)

It’s important your child feel like he or she is still part of the real world. Pictures of family, friends and pets are important. Use a scrapbook, tape them to the side of the bed (if allowed) or the walls or just go through the loose photos. Share stories. Some kids feel sad and homesick, as if the world is going on without them. Pictures help keep them grounded in their worlds.

10. Anything that provides comfort

This applies to you and your child. Loose, comfortable clothing because you’ll be sitting around, kicking up your feet and getting into strange positions on those awful hospital chairs. Sweaters or cozy sweatshirts because hospitals are cold! If your child is allowed to wear regular clothes instead of a hospital gown, make sure the clothes are loose enough for all the stickers, leads, monitor wires and IV lines have room to move. Slippers are great for short walks, trips to the bathroom or lazy walks to the cafeteria when it’s been so many days you don’t care what people think anymore.

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For nighttime, many parents like to bring a cot mat or piece of foam to lie on when sleeping on the chair-fold-into-bed thing. Some people bring their own pillows.

Snacks or homemade food, but ONLY if it’s approved by your child’s doctor. It’s very helpful, though, to have snacks or food on hand for you. You’ll save money, it’s healthier (you don’t keep running to the vending machine) and you don’t have to leave the room to go somewhere (because some days are worse than others and you can’t leave.)

Bonus: Bring your sense of humor. You will need to laugh when things get rough. Bring your strength. You’ll need it and so will your child. Bring your courage. Sometimes you need to be an advocate. Sometimes YOU know better and you’ll need to speak up. Bring your patience. Hospitals are busy. Nurses are human. Most of all, bring all your love and attention. Your child is scared, even if he/she doesn’t show it.

Featured photo credit: Tiberiu Ana via flickr.com

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Missy Mitchell

Author, Artist, Advocate

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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