When a friend or family member is ill or injured and requires a hospital stay or recovers at home, how do you help kids understand what’s going on or involve them in caregiving? What are some ways kids can show they care? Here are a few simple, yet meaningful, ways CaringBridge.org and Hallmark Facebook fans have included children in the caregiving of friends and loved ones. These ideas also seemed to help kids cope in times of illness or recovery.
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Based on my experience, adults should prepare children by explaining the loved one may look or act differently from usual. A good method is making it relative. For example, “Remember how tired you felt when you were sick?” Most importantly, tell children even though someone who is ill or injured may look or act differently, he or she is still the same person. Don’t be afraid to hug and love the patient.
My camera played a major role in helping our many grandchildren understand and cope with my husband’s terminal cancer. We moved his bed into the living room where he could participate in our daily lives. The children loved having their pictures taken with Grandpa as they shared smiles and hugs and chatted about their day. Now, as adults, a beautiful photo album enables them to reminisce about the love they shared during Grandpa’s final year.
When my mom was going through chemo and was in and out of the hospital, there were times when she couldn’t be around our children because of the risk of infection. It was difficult for her and the kids. One day, we decided to have the kids dress up and do a skit that we’d videotape to share with my mom when she was in the hospital. It was a way that everybody could feel connected.
Who doesn’t like to get a love letter? A young child can brighten someone’s day by simply writing “I love you!” and mailing it off. If the ill or injured person lives in the same house, have them hide the love notes where the recipient will be sure to find them, like inside a slipper or under their pillow.
The children Mom had babysat for were reluctant to visit the hospital. “We’re scared! What do we do?” I asked them to remember what special times they had shared with ‘Teta.’ So each youngster brought a book. One child hesitantly started with Itsy Bitsy Spider. The next could hardly wait to read Humpty-Dumpty. Soon they were almost fighting over who would read next. “Remember this one, Teta?” Mom was delighted and the kids were overjoyed.
After my surgery, my husband knew it was going to take weeks before I recovered. To measure my progress, he potted flower bulbs at my bedside. He explained that if my boys took care of the plants, they would bloom when I was well. They watered and talked to them to make them grow. In a few weeks the flowers bloomed and I was better. The boys felt that they played a role in that.