How to help a friend whose child is in hospital

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Read about some practical help you can provide if you have a friend who has a sick child in the hospital.

Key points

  • Many parents who have a sick child in the hospital do not want to ask for help. Offer to help by suggesting you complete a few day-to-day tasks for them that need doing.

Having a sick child in the hospital is very stressful for parents. Day-to-day life is disrupted, but still needs to go on. Help from friends and family is usually welcome, but many people are not sure how to help a friend whose child is in hospital. Asking "Is there anything I can do to help?" may not get you a list. Many parents are embarrassed to ask for help from friends and family, or they may simply be overwhelmed and unable to think of anything. Be specific: think about what help your friends might need, and offer them a choice of two or three suggestions.

Practical help for friends with a sick child

Depending on how close you are, here are some practical things you might offer to do:

  • Act as a "point person" to relay information to other friends. Parents can often get frustrated or overwhelmed when friends and relatives are all phoning to ask how the sick child is doing.
  • Car pool the sick child's siblings to lessons, school or appointments.
  • Babysit for an evening.
  • Look in on seniors.
  • Walk the dog or take care of other pets.
  • Buy a load of groceries.
  • Cook a meal for the family, or send takeout. Take Them a Meal is a website that helps family and friends coordinate a meal schedule.
  • Bring some healthy snacks to the hospital.
  • Tidy and clean the house.
  • Do a load of laundry.
  • Water the plants.
  • Mow the lawn or do other work in the garden.
  • Shovel the driveway.
  • Take out the garbage and recycling.
  • Round up and return library books.
  • If you do not have much time to spare or you do not live nearby, a gift card for coffee or a visit from a cleaning service are also welcome.

Your emotional support and friendship are also important:

  • Remember that your friends may not have much mental or emotional energy to spare while their child is in hospital.
  • They may not be in touch as often as usual. Check in with them regularly and offer practical help when you can.
  • Parents of a sick child need to look after themselves. If you visit them in hospital, make it clear that they do not have to entertain you. Encourage them to take a break.
Last updated: June 13th 2012