Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

Staying with your child

Hospitals can be frightening places for children. Fear can be prevented or lessened if parents are there to provide comfort, protection, and advocacy for their child. Most pediatric hospitals are quite aware of how much better children do when a parent is allowed to sleep in the room. Some rooms contain small couches convert into beds, or parents can use a cot provided by the hospital.

Whenever my husband couldn’t be at the hospital at bedtime, he would bring in homemade tapes of him reading bedtime stories. Our son would drift off to sleep hearing his daddy’s voice.

Of course, sometimes it isn’t possible to stay with your child if you are a single parent or if both parents work full-time. Many families have grandparents, older siblings (older than age 18), or close friends who stay with the hospitalized child when the parents cannot be present. Older children and teenagers may not want a parent in the room at night, but they may need an advocate there during the day just as much as the preschoolers.

Our hospital did not allow parents into the MRI suite. We worked with the head of that department, and being with your child during the MRI now it is permitted for all families. This avoided the use of general anesthesia, so it was good for everyone involved. You don’t need to take “no” for an answer.

Some families find staying at the hospital day and night to be too stressful. An oncologist made the following suggestion:

When people are subject to stress, some people cope by focusing on all the details. For these people, being there all the time reduces their stress level. In other words, they would be more stressed if they were at home or work because they would be worrying all the time. Other people cope with stress by blocking out the details and trying to make life normal. I think that you need to think about how your family can best cope with this process and make your decisions based on that. Have a family meeting to sort out these issues, and don’t feel bad if you decide what is best for your family is different from what other people say you should do.