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How to Help the Family of a Hospitalized Child

Author: Jessica Woolwine
Published Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I have a unique perspective on the difficulties of having a child that requires hospitalization. I lived at the hospital with Jackson during his cancer treatment. I had to leave a child in the NICU and make daily visits for four months. We’ve also had brief hospitalizations for surgeries. I know about the short-term, long-term and immediate needs of families dealing with hospitalization.

Being open about my kids’ health experiences opens me up to lots of questions from well-meaning friends, coworkers, family members and even complete strangers like the lady at the supermarket.

The two most frequent questions I get asked are:

  • Can you talk to my friend who is going through “X” and share your story?
  • How can I help my friend whose child is in the hospital?

The first thing I share, after I tell them “yes, of course, I’d be happy to talk with so-and-so,” is that their friend’s sick child comes before any and everything else. While every little kind act or thoughtful gesture is appreciated, it may not be recognized.

What I mean is:

  • You may want to do something kind for them, but it doesn’t work with their schedule.
  • You may send a text and never get a response.
  • The gift shop could deliver your thoughtful balloon or stuffed animal to their room, and you don’t know if they received it until days later.
  • You could set up a fundraiser, and they don’t show up because their child is having a medical emergency.

When Jackson was going through cancer treatment, it was incredibly difficult to focus on anything past his immediate health. When Abby was in the NICU, I didn’t know if she was going to be up for a visitor even an hour before they were planning to come.

Know that whatever you do, it is always noticed and appreciated. The effort means something. Today, I can still remember who sent an outfit, a bag of Goldfish or a balloon, and that was years ago.

Need suggestions? Try these:

  • Clean their house.
  • Mow their lawn.
  • Set up childcare for any other children in the family.
  • Organize an online meal chain.
  • Organize a fundraiser that’s easy for the family and without strings attached.

Whatever kind thing you’re going to do, whether you get recognized or not, DO IT. Every little snippet of kindness is welcome.



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About Jessica Woolwine

Jessica Woolwine is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.