It’s a message we always hear at Christmas: home for the holidays.
When kids are in the hospital during the holiday season, they often ask if they will be able to go home for Christmas. We do everything we can to get kids home for the holidays, even if it’s just for Christmas Day. But sometimes, that’s just not possible.
Kids who stay in the hospital for Christmas have many questions about celebrating, from whether the holidays will still be fun, to “Will Santa find me?”
Here are six common concerns, and how you can help make “hospital holidays” easier and more fun for your child.
1. Why Can’t I Go Home?
Not being able to come home can be disappointing or frustrating for a child. Acknowledge that you understand his feelings, so he knows you’re listening.
But then, remind him that he’s in the hospital to get better. Plus, if he goes home, he might get sicker, and have to go right back to the hospital later.
By reassuring him that you’re helping him heal, he’ll realize that you’re not the Grinch, trying to steal Christmas from him.
2. Will Santa Find Me Here?
For many kids, getting gifts from Santa is the highlight of the holidays. So when they’re away from home, they sometimes get scared that they will be forgotten.
Once you have told your child that Santa will find her, reassure her by keeping up your usual Santa routine. Mail her wish list to Santa, leave out milk and cookies—everything you usually do at home.
3. Can Santa Make Me Better?
This is a tough question, especially since many kids think Santa can do anything.
Explain to your child that it’s doctors who can help us heal, not Santa—even though it would be great if he could do that. Remind your child that this is why he’s in the hospital—he has good doctors and is getting good care, and that’s what will help him get better.
4. Can I Still Eat Christmas Dinner?
There’s nothing like Christmas dinner. If the physician clears it, feel free to serve your usual dinner, right there in your child’s hospital room.
However, there are times when Christmas dinner in the hospital isn’t such a good idea. Your child may not be able to have visitors, or her physician might want her to avoid certain foods as she’s recovering from a treatment.
Tell your child that she doesn’t have to miss Christmas dinner—it will just be delayed. Once she’s cleared to have visitors or eat her favorite foods, have your full Christmas dinner—even if it’s weeks later.
5. Will Christmas Still Be Fun?
Missing out on the usual Christmas festivities can be a bummer. Your child might wonder if Christmas will be fun, even though he has to skip parties and winter break with his friends.
Fortunately, many hospitals find ways to bring the Christmas spirit into the hospital.
At Children’s, we have activities all through the month of December. A choir sings in the lobby and performs carols floor to floor. A new local group (e.g., firefighters, police officers, hockey players) comes in almost every day to visit the kids. We also organize holiday craft projects and Christmas cookie decorating.
Find out if your hospital has any special activities planned, and share them with your child so he has something to look forward to.
You can also plan activities on your own.
6. How Can I Buy Christmas Gifts?
This is something that older kids are often concerned about. They want to find gifts for their family members and friends, but can’t leave the hospital to go shopping.
If your child has mentioned Christmas shopping, ask someone on her care team, like a nurse or child life specialist, for help. They might be able to help her do some online shopping, or get the materials to make homemade gifts.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.