If someone you know is in hospital with their little bambino or even their lanky teenager in the run up to Christmas, here are a few things you could do to help...
I really appreciated contact from the 'outside world'. From anyone and via any means. Reading kind texts and messages on Facebook made a real difference to me and helped me fill the long lonely hours. So if you know someone whose child is in hospital this Christmas, even if you aren't that close or haven't spoken in years, text them! They may not be able to reply but I'm sure knowing that someone is thinking about them will help. If you're not sure what to say, or are worried about upsetting them, something simple like “Just wanted to say we are thinking of you” is enough!
Find a messenger (Or be the messenger)
While any contact is likely to be appreciated, I found it difficult when people asked things. In particular “what's wrong with him?”, “when will he be better?” or “when will you be allowed to come home?”. I got a few of these and the fact was, I didn't know the answers. Having to explain what I did know over and over was just too much. I personally found it easier to share updates on Facebook, rather than tell people individually. That kind of over-sharing isn't for everyone obviously! If you want to know what's going on, a grandparent or aunt might be able to keep you updated so that the parents don't have to repeat themselves. Or perhaps you could offer to be a point of contact for concerned friends?
Be a Christmas Elf
Christmas is a logistical nightmare for parents, sick child or not! There are gifts to buy and wrap, meals to prepare, decorations to put up and so on. If one of your children is in hospital, all of your festive admin (Festmin?) is neglected. Offer your services as a Christmas Elf... maybe do some wrapping for them, buy that last minute gift for Aunty Jane, offer to go to the post office to collect any Amazon parcels they've missed or even just nip to the shop for more mince pies!
We had our turkey and other Christmas food being delivered from the supermarket an hour after we were admitted to Special Care... I'm amazed either of us even remembered but I had waited up until midnight to book that delivery slot and in our exhausted delerium we decided my husband definitely needed to leave us to go home and wait for it?! Looking back I wish we had had the sense to call a neighbour or to ask someone to go and wait at our house for us! The baby and I needed him with us and I went a tiny (huge) bit crazy while he was gone.
The siblings of children in hospital get a seriously raw deal. They have all the disruption to their normal lives and routines, a whole lot of worry about their sick sibling and very limited time with their parents. My eldest was in the bosom of our whole family, surrounded by cousins, uncles and aunts, reportedly having a ball and ably cared for by doting grandparents but I was still worried sick about him.
I felt better receiving pictures of him having a good time, hearing him laugh on the phone and being told every detail of what he was getting up to. Sometimes it's nice to talk about the 'normal' things outside of hospital and be reassured that life is going out outside of the strange 'other worldliness' of a ward.
You could offer to take a sibling out for a Christmassy treat, arrange a sleep over or cook some meals for everyone left at home. People always say that saying "if there's anything I can do to help" is no help, but offering specific things is brilliant.
Send a care parcel
Cards are so lovely to receive during difficult times, but wouldn't it be amazing to send something even more thoughtful and comforting for parents coping with having a sick child this December?
Don't Buy Her Flowers is a company (set up by a friend of mine) which will send a gorgeously packaged parcel to cheer up any Mum having a tough time. They include little treats she could take into hospital with her and you can add Cook vouchers, so she can order ready-made dinners for any family left at home.
The Care Package would be my pick, including flapjacks, truffles, posh tea and a beautiful scarf as well as a glossy magazine for those long hours sitting by a bed or cot. There are loads of other options too including ones with gorgeous hand creams to counteract all that drying alcohol gel you have to use in hospitals!
(Disclosure: Supermum Steph from Don't Buy Her Flowers didn't ask me to write this, I was just writing this post and realised her business was the perfect thing for hospital Mums! I reckon she might buy me a G&T next time I see her though.)