Childhood Cancer

Your Child in the Hospital

Notifying family and friends

If your child goes to the hospital for a routine procedure or minor injury, you probably won’t have to communicate with anyone outside the immediate family. When the illness or injury is serious, notifying family and friends becomes a painful necessity.

One easy way to tell family and friends is to delegate one person to do the job. Calling one relative, neighbor, or close friend prevents numerous conversations about the illness or injury. Most parents are at their child’s bedside and want to avoid more emotional upheaval, especially in front of their child.

The first three days in the hospital after my daughter was diagnosed with a serious disease, I spent much of my time crying on the phone when talking to friends and relatives. Then I realized how frightening this must be to my two-year-old. So I just stopped talking on my cell phone. Now, each time Jennifer is hospitalized, I call one friend and have her spread the news, then I concentrate on my daughter.

You can tell a trusted family member friend exactly what information you want him or her to pass on and, most importantly, whether you would welcome visits, phone calls, or cards. If you want visitors, for example, let people know when visiting hours are and whether there are any restrictions set by the hospital (or by you or your child) about who can come and for how long.

Parents usually find that relatives’ and friends’ emotions will mirror their own: shock, fear, worry, helplessness. Since most loved ones want to help but don’t know what to do or say, they welcome cues about what might help.

Sometimes, especially when an illness or injury is severe, parents must take extra steps to keep family members and friends informed and involved.

• Encourage all members of the family to keep in touch through visits, calls, email, or social media.

• Call if you don’t hear from family members or close friends. Often silence means they don’t know what to do or say.

• Tell family members and friends when your child is too sick or too fatigued for company. When visits are welcome, make them brief and cheerful.