Sadly, at one pint of another in our lives, we will all probably find ourselves having to visit a loved one in hospital. Whether it’s to pay a visit to somebody very sick, or to celebrate the birth of a newborn child, hospital visits are a part of everyday life. I have had to visit people in hospital on a couple of occasions with my eldest two boys and I felt ever so nervous taking them there – I was worried they wouldn’t behave, I was worried they would annoy the other patients, I wasn’t sure what the protocol for visiting was – yep, I am a bit of a stress head!
Leading lawyers, Slater and Gordon, as part of their #HospitalHelpingHand campaign, want to make sure that visiting a loved one whilst they’re in hospital is as easy and stress-free as possible, and that you know exactly what you should do to prepare for it, depending on the individual patient. They have asked for me to share my ‘Top tips for visiting a loved one in hospital with Children’ so, without further ado, here they are.
1) Take a favourite cuddly toy as a familiar companion…but wash it first!
Hospitals can be daunting places for adults to visit, let alone children. Make the visit more child friendly by letting them take one of their favourite cuddly toys with them as a comforter/familiar companion. One tip of mine however, would be to wash said cuddly toy before you visit. I don’t know about yours, but my kids cuddly toys can often be a bit, how shall I put it, grimey?! Ok, filthy, that’s a better description. Seen as hospitals need to be as clean and sterile as possible, giving that much loved cuddly a wash beforehand would be a very good idea.
2) Decide how long you’re staying for
When you’ve got a friend, family member or loved one in hospital, all you want to do is stay by their side to offer support and make them feel better, but children can be fickle creatures with short attention spans – a bit like my husband. Setting a time limit on your visit, and informing the patient you’re visiting beforehand of your time frame, is a great idea. That way you’re not outstaying your welcome, trying to make excuses to leave or going to end up feeling guilty leaving after only 20 minutes. Most friends and relatives would love it if you could stay for the duration of their stay, I hated being left in hospital when I have been in and I cried when my husband had to go home to sleep when I had given birth to my boys, but realistically, 20-30 minutes visiting time with children is going to be a sensible limit. Check visiting times and constraints too, these usually vary from hospital to hospital and ward to ward so make sure you check with a member of staff before you set off.
3) Take an iPad/Tablet and some headphones. In this instance, technology is your friend!
I know people often frown upon the use of iPads and Tablets in public situations, but happy kids make happy parents so if that means giving them a film or TV show to watch whilst you chat and tend to your loved one in hospital, then so be it. Download a few favourite TV shows, put a game or two on there for them, whatever works. And remember the headphones! Nobody wants to hear Peppa Pig snorting away for half an hour (apart from your kids that is) so pop those headphones in your bag before you leave home.
4) Teach your children about good hygiene and why it is important before you go and make washing their hands fun.
Last but not least, don’t forget to de-germ everyone! Keeping your hands clean and washing them religiously is always important but it’s vital to kill germs when you’re entering a hospital environment. The same goes for when it’s time to head back home too because you don’t want to be taking any germs back with you – no gifts of that kind are welcome thank you very much! Carry a bottle of hand sanitiser in your bag and ensure you make use of the sanitising gels that will be dotted around the hospital to reduce the spread of germs. If your kids are anything like mine they will love pushing the dispensers and rubbing the foam/gel on themselves.