Holiday-time comfort strategies for kids in the hospital
Any day spent at the hospital is challenging for kids and their families. But spending holidays at the hospital can be even more challenging. Some kids and their families may have to miss out on celebrating holidays at home with families and friends.
7-year-old Lily and her family experienced this challenge firsthand. During a recent 20-day stay at the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) and a 40-day stay at the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at CHOC, Lily and her family spent Halloween at the hospital in Orange.
Danielle and David, Lily’s parents, remember that their extended stay was difficult for Lily, who missed being able to celebrate Halloween alongside her siblings.
Fortunately, the CHOC staff and fun, festive Halloween events at the hospital were able to ease some of Lily’s disappointment, even making the day memorable for her and her family.
Halloween at CHOC
On Halloween, Lily picked out a free-of-charge costume and trick-or-treated in the hospital’s lobby. Each year, CHOC Orange is transformed into a wonderland — full of staff in costumes, themed decorations, activities, candy and prizes. There’s even a “reverse trick-or-treating” event when special visitors will drop off goodies to patients in their rooms.
Making the most of holidays at the hospital
To make their stay more comfortable, Lily’s child life specialists, nurses and echocardiogram technicians would bring her festive crafts to work on. Soon, they learned what Lily liked most, and would bring her different activities and gifts.
To help their stay be more fun, Danielle would decorate Lily’s room with her crafts and decorations from home. Danielle and David would also set up frequent video calls for Lily to see and talk to her siblings at home.
To help make their extended stay easier for themselves, Danielle and David tried to learn as much as they could about Lily’s treatment and to communicate what she needed to their providers. Danielle also had to make sure to accept the offered help from her friends and family. A delivered meal and greeting from a familiar face in the hospital’s driveway was a much-deserved break from their routine.
To other parents, David encourages that when the time is right, they should take a break, grab a coffee and snack and go outside for some sunlight.
“We have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our kids,” he says.
These efforts to make their hospital stay more comfortable, combined with the relationships they made with the CHOC staff, helped Lily, Danielle and David establish positive memories during their stay.
“Everyone at CHOC really cares about the well-being of their patients. They are hardworking and busy, but they take the time to explain treatments to kids and parents. We really appreciate everyone and all the relationships we’ve made,” says Danielle.
Tips for families spending the winter holidays at the hospital
With the winter holidays approaching, Chloe Negrete, child life specialist at CHOC, offers the following additional strategies to help families make positive memories while at the hospital:
- Put up holiday decorations like garland, window clings, battery-operated lights or menorahs, a small tree and stockings.
- Print pictures of family and friends and hang them around your room.
- Wear fun holiday pajamas and socks.
- Make “grinch slime.”
- Bring in comfort items from home like cozy blankets or stuffed animals.
- Put on some music and have a daily dance party.
- Read holiday-themed books before bed.
- Watch a festive movie and drink hot chocolate.
- Continue family holiday traditions.
- Decorate cookies or gingerbread houses.
- Cut out paper snowflakes.
CHOC experts offer health advice to help families make the most out of the holiday season.