Some kids are spending the holidays in the hospital. Here's how you can help

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Families have a lot on their plates over the holidays, and we’re not just talking latkes and turkey. There are decorations to unpack and traditions to consider, family dramas to navigate and expectations to moderate. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Yet most of the seasonal hustle and bustle fades to black for families with a child in the hospital.

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The Montreal Children’s Hospital has activities and events lined up throughout the season, including this week’s visit by some of the Montreal Canadiens. The Children’s is also planning a pyjama party, a gingerbread house on wheels, winter bingo and a photo booth. Santa, of course, will visit several units.

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The Children’s annual holiday gift campaign runs till Dec. 17, although the public can donate funds and toys any time of year. There are guidelines that donors must follow, which are available on the Children’s website, thechildren.com/donate/donation-guidelines-gifts-and-toys.

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There are ways you can directly support family and friends with a child in the hospital, no matter what time of year it is. Here are a few ideas.

Reach out. A phone call, text or other quick message lets them know you’re thinking of them. This might help them feel less out of the loop.

Offer to help with their other kids. When there are other children at home, parents often feel split in two. Nothing can replace spending time with their healthy child, but friends can help out by doing something fun with the sibling of a child in hospital, freeing up more time for both parents to be at their sick child’s bedside.

Helping with small tasks. Dozens of household chores need doing, even when parents are barely home. The stairs might have to be shoveled, milk purchased, a meal cooked. Doing one small thing is a big gift — but ask first, because showing up with a casserole when there are already three in the freezer might be less help than you think it is.

Giving a small self-care gift. A West Island mom whose son was at the Children’s being treated for burns was given a gift card to a café at the hospital: “I felt surrounded,” she said of that and other small kindnesses.

Delivering treats. Find out what decorations or treats are allowed in the child’s unit and what the visiting rules are before showing up with battery-operated lights and a tin of cookies. Oh, and consider showing up with two tins of cookies, because health-care staff deserve a boost, too. Something as simple as making paper snowflakes with a child can brighten their day and their room.

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