When faced with a child’s hospital stay, it’s easy to feel helpless. As a parent, you never want to see your child suffer, and it’s difficult to know what to do to make the situation any better. If your child needs to stay in the hospital, here are a few tips to help you get through it.

Plan to stay with your child as much as possible
Many hospitals now assume that someone will be with your child during their hospital stay, especially if they are younger. During this scary time, your child will be comforted by your presence and will be more likely to express their needs to you rather than a nurse. Doctors recognize that children recover faster when their parents are involved in their care and are more likely to consult you about major decisions if you are present. If you can’t be with your child full-time, try to find out when the doctor will regularly examine your child and make it a priority to be there then.

Ask for help
Having a child in the hospital is stressful for your whole family, especially if you have other children at home. You may be reluctant to ask others for help, but you might be surprised to find how eager people may be to lend a hand. Your family or friends may be able to handle larger tasks such as staying with your other children, but other members of your community may be able to help as well. Contact your church or school and let them know what is going on. Students in your child’s class may want to send get well cards, and parents may be able to help out with carpooling your other children to school or maybe dropping meals off to your family. Keep an organized list of things that you need help with so that when someone asks if you need help, you have specific suggestions.

Keep a rhythm
When you’re staying in the hospital, it can be easy to feel swallowed up in all of the machines, protocols and procedures. However, it can comfort both you and your child to maintain a sense of rhythm and normalcy by establishing a routine. Make sure to bring a few items that are special to them to the hospital such as a blanket, stuffed animal or favorite toy. Try to keep your child’s sleep schedule consistent with their home schedule to ensure that they get enough rest. If someone needs to see your child while they are sleeping, ask if it can wait until a little later. Some procedures need to happen without delay, but it’s always worth asking.

Take Advantage of the Hospital’s Resources
Any hospital that provides care for children, should have resources to help the kids cope with what is going on. At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, there are Child Life Specialists who can interpret, in an age-appropriate manner, all the treatments going on. There are music therapists who can distract your child while an uncomfortable procedure is  underway. There are volunteers who can play a game with your son or daughter while you get a shower or grab some food. There are volunteers with therapy dogs who can come in for some furry hugs. Add in a game room and movie theater, you child might feel like they are on a medical cruise ship and not want to go home!