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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

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Last Updated on August 22, 2019

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 27% of children under the age of 18 are living with a single parent.[1] That’s over 1/4th of the U.S. population.There is a common misconception that children who grow up in single parent homes are not as successful as children living in two-parent homes.

One crucial detail that was often left out of studies when comparing single and two-parent homes was the stability of the household. There is a correlation between family structure and family stability, but this study shows that children who grow up in stable single-parent homes do as well as those in married households in terms of academic abilities and behavior.

But providing stability is easier said than done. With only one adult to act as a parent, some tasks are inherently more challenging. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to make the parenting journey a little easier for yourself and stay sane while doing it.

1. Don’t Neglect Self-Care

Before anything else can be done, you must be caring for your own needs adequately. Only when you are feeling well-rested and healthy can you be at your best for your children.

Many parents tend to put their kids’ needs first and their owns last, but that will result in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Make time to eat regularly and healthfully, get plenty of rest, and squeeze in exercise whenever you can. Even a short walk around the neighborhood will help your body get much-needed movement and fresh air.

Your children depend on you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are well-equipped and ready to take on that responsibility.

2. Join Forces with Other Single Parents

At times, it may seem like you’re the only person who knows what it’s like to be a single parent. However, the statistics say that there are many others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Find single parents locally, through your kid’s school, extracurricular activities, or even an app. There are also numerous online communities that can offer support and advice, through Facebook or sites like Single Mom Nation.

Although single moms make up the majority of single parents, there are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S. A great way to connect is through Meetup. Other single parents will more than happy to arrange babysitting swaps, playdates, and carpools.

Join forces in order to form mutually beneficial relationships.

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3. Build a Community

In addition to finding support with other single parents, also build a community comprised of families of all different types. Rather than focus solely on the single parent aspect of your identity, look for parents and kids who share other things in common.

Join a playgroup, get plugged in at a church, or get to know the parents of the kids involved in the same extracurricular activities. Having a community of a variety of people and families will bring diversity and excitement into your and your kids’ lives.

4. Accept Help

Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all yourself. There are probably people in your life who care about you and your kids and want to help you. Let them know what types of things would be most appreciated, whether it’s bringing meals once a week, helping with rides to school, or giving you time to yourself.

There is no shame in asking for help and accepting assistance from loved ones. You will not be perceived as weak or incompetent. You are being a good parent by being resourceful and allowing others to give you a much-needed break.

5. Get Creative with Childcare

Raising a child on a single income is a challenge, with the high cost of daycares, nannies, and other conventional childcare services. More affordable options are possible if you go a less traditional route.

If you have space and live in a college town, offer a college student housing in exchange for regular childcare. Or swap kids with other single parents so that your kids have friends to play with while the parents get time to themselves.

When I was younger, my parents had a group of five family friends, and all of the children would rotate to a different house each day of the week, during the summer months. The kids would have a great time playing with each other, and the parents’ job becomes a lot easier. That’s what you would call a win-win situation.

6. Plan Ahead for Emergencies

As a single parent, a backup plan or two is a must in emergency situations. Make a list of people you know you can call in a moment’s notice. There will be times in which you need help, and it’s important to know ahead of time who you can rely on.

Look into whether or not your area offers emergency babysitting services or a drop-in daycare. Knowing who will be able to care for your child in the event of an emergency can relieve one potential source of anxiety in stressful situations.

7. Create a Routine

Routines are crucial for young children because knowing what to expect gives them a semblance of control. This is even more important when in a single parent home.

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If the child travels between homes or has multiple caretakers, life can seem extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Establish a routine and schedule for your child as much as possible. This can include bedtime, before/after school, chores, meal times, and even a weekend routine.

Having a routine does not mean things cannot change. It is merely a default schedule to fall back on when no additional events or activities are going on. When your children know what to expect, they will be less resistant because they know what to expect, and days will run much more smoothly.

8. Be Consistent with Rules and Discipline

If your child has multiple caretakers, such as another parent, grandparent, or babysitter, communicate clearly on how discipline will be handled. Talk to your ex, if you are sharing custody, as well as any other caretakers about the rules and the agreed-upon approach to discipline.

When a child realizes that certain rules can be bent with certain people, he/she will use it to their advantage, causing additional issues with limits, behavior, and discipline down the road.

This article may help you to discipline your child better:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

9. Stay Positive

Everyone has heard the saying, “Mind over matter.” But there really is so much power behind your mentality. It can change your perspective and make a difficult situation so much better.

Your kids will be able to detect even the smallest shift in your attitude. When the responsibilities of motherhood are overwhelming, stay focused on the positive things in your life, such as your friends and family. This will produce a much more stable home environment.

Maintain your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to be silly. Look towards the future and the great things that are still to come for you and your family. Rediscover and redefine your family values.

10. Move Past the Guilt

In a single parent home, it is impossible to act as both parents, regardless of how hard you try. Let go of the things that you cannot do as a single parent, and instead, think of the great things you ARE able to provide for your children.

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Leave behind the notion that life would be easier or better with two parents. This is simply not true. There is a multitude of pros and cons to all family dynamics, and the one you are providing for your kids now is the one that they need.

Don’t get bogged down by guilt or regret. Take control of your life and be the best parent you can by being present and engaged with them on a daily basis.

11. Answer Questions Honestly

Your kids may have questions about why their home situation is different from many of their friends. When asked, don’t sugarcoat the situation or give them an answer that is not accurate.

Depending on their age, take this opportunity to explain the truth of what happened and how the current circumstances came about. Not all families have two parents, whether that is due to divorce, death, or whatever else life brings.

Don’t give more detail than necessary or talk badly about the other parent. But strive to be truthful and honest. Your children will benefit more from your candor than a made-up story.

12. Treat Kids Like Kids

In the absence of a partner, it can be tempting to rely on your children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But your kids are not equipped to play this role for you.

There are many details within an adult relationship that children are not able to understand or process, and it will only cause confusion and resentment.

Do not take out your anger on your kids. Separate your emotional needs from your role as a mother. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, look for adult friends or family members that you can talk to about your issues.

13. Find Role Models

Find positive role models of the opposite sex for your child. It’s crucial that your child does not form negative associations with an entire gender of people.

Find close friends or family members that would be willing to spend one-on-one time with your kids. Encourage them to form meaningful relationships with people that you trust and that they can look up to.

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Role models can make a huge difference in the path that a child decides to take, so be intentional about the ones that you put in your kids’ lives.

14. Be Affectionate and Give Praise

Your children need your affection and praise on a daily basis. Engage with your kids as often as possible by playing with them, going on outings, and encouraging open dialogue.

Affirm them in the things that they are doing well, no matter how small. Praise their efforts, rather than their achievements. This will inspire them to continue to put forth hard work and not give up when success is not achieved.

Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time and effort in making lasting memories.

Final Thoughts

Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. Without the help of a partner to fall back on, single parents have a lot more to take on.

However, studies show that growing up in a single parent home does not have a negative effect on achievement in school. As long as the family is a stable and safe environment, kids are able to excel and do well in life.

Use these tips in order to be a reliable and capable parent for your kids, while maintaining your own well-being and sanity.

More Resources About Parenting

Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

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