COMMUNITY

Children and families facing serious illness need a strong support team for the long haul. Friends, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and other community members, who find ways to be helpful as the family’s needs evolve, are a crucial part of that team. 

Children and families facing serious illness need a strong support team for the long haul. Friends, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and other community members who find ways to be helpful as the family’s needs evolve are a crucial part of that team.

When children are initially diagnosed with an illness, or have a sudden hospitalization, the community often comes together to try to help the family. This support network is an important part of the team. Unfortunately, this initial response may trail off after a little while. Checking in periodically, throughout the treatment journey, is one of the most crucial ways friends and family can help.

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Here are some ways to support a family during treatment.

  1. Don’t assume what will be helpful. Ask and observe to see what the family needs now.
  2. Remember that needs may change over time.
  3. The best gift a friend/family member can give is TIME.
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    Sit with their child in the hospital so the caregiver can take a break.

    Stop by for coffee, lunch, etc. and allow the caregiver to vent.

    If the family has other children, offer to take them on a play date.

    If a family has pets, offer to assist with them.

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  4. Practical help is also greatly appreciated. Families may appreciate a home cooked meal, groceries, house cleaning or someone to help weed the garden.
  5. Appointments and hospitalizations make it hard to predict when families are home. Please remember to call or text before stopping by.
  6. If you are bringing a meal for a family, ask what they have been eating lately (“Not baked ziti again!”) and if there are any dietary restrictions.
  7. Remember the siblings – send them cards or notes to show that you are thinking of them.
  8. It is good to ask what is needed, but don’t expect caregivers to always know what to say when you ask, “What can I do?”

When children are initially diagnosed with an illness, or have a sudden hospitalization, the community often comes together to try to help the family. This support network is an important part of the team. Unfortunately, this initial response may trail off after a little while. Checking in periodically, throughout the treatment journey, is one of the most crucial ways friends and family can help.

a

Here are some ways to support a family during treatment.

  1. Don’t assume what will be helpful. Ask and observe to see what the family needs now.
  2. Remember that needs may change over time.
  3. The best gift a friend/family member can give is TIME.
    a

    Sit with their child in the hospital so the caregiver can take a break.

    Stop by for coffee, lunch, etc. and allow the caregiver to vent.

    If the family has other children, offer to take them on a play date.

    If a family has pets, offer to assist with them.

    a
  4. Practical help is also greatly appreciated. Families may appreciate a home cooked meal, groceries, house cleaning or someone to help weed the garden.
  5. Appointments and hospitalizations make it hard to predict when families are home. Please remember to call or text before stopping by.
  6. If you are bringing a meal for a family, ask what they have been eating lately (“Not baked ziti again!”) and if there are any dietary restrictions.
  7. Remember the siblings – send them cards or notes to show that you are thinking of them. 
  8. It is good to ask what is needed, but don’t expect caregivers to always know what to say when you ask, “What can I do?”
Helping While a Child Is at the Hospital
  1. Think about the siblings and parents when bringing gifts to the hospital. They are often overlooked but equally important.
  2. Pack parents or other caregivers a survival kit if they have to stay overnight. Think about things to keep them busy or fun snacks. Examples include nail polish, slippers, magazines etc.
  3. Children may appreciate toys or activities, but be sure to first check with the parent to see what is allowed.
  4. Gift cards to the grocery store or restaurants are always appreciated. Tip: Think of restaurants that are close to the hospital so families can order food without having to leave for long.
  5. “My family appreciated when people brought fruit, homemade cookies, a craft project or a gift card when my child was in the hospital.” – A Grateful Mom

Understanding the Emotional Impact on Families
  1. Understand that your friend is forever changed. Be there for them.
  2. Your friend may be short-fused or impatient. It is because they are overwhelmed and scared. Don’t let that push you away.
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Some Things to Avoid:

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  1. Please refrain from sending articles on holistic medical cures found on Facebook or question treatment decisions.
  2. Try to refrain from saying phrases like:
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    “Everything happens for a reason.”

    “I don’t know how you do it.”

    “God only gives you what you can handle.”

    “All part of God’s plan.”

How Do I Talk with the Child or Family?
  1. Invite the child, parents, and siblings to tell you how things are going. Understand if they don’t want to talk. If they do share, just listen.
  2. Some people don’t know what to say and so they do not reach out at all. If this is the case, tell them you don’t know what to say but are ready to listen and help.
  3. Send the caregiver a text or note to show them you are there, should they want to talk.
  4. When talking with the caregiver, be sure to talk about things other than their child’s illness or injury.
  5. Remember the “silk ring theory” – COMFORT IN, DUMP OUT.

    Read more here: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407

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