Annebelle’s VNS surgery coming up and if we’re going to be honest, hospital stays are THE WORST. Once your child gets admitted and you get a room you are in for a long stay of repeat Disney movies on a uncomfortable “bed” (that is actually a bench). Most children’s hospitals are amazing at keeping the child entertained because it's hard to keep a child entertained and in bed for days at a time. As a mom of a child in the hospital I am constantly thinking of ways to entertain her while she’s stuck in bed recovering and hooked up to machines. Finally night time falls and I have time to myself and it after a couple days that alone time is actually really boring. Parents aren’t hooked up to machines or confined to a room (for the most part) but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need activities of our own, so with help from my special needs community I have compiled a list of activities for PARENTS during their child's hospital stay.
Ok this one might seem like an odd choice after we just pointed out that you and your little one have been watching TV all day, but use this time to watch something not made by Disney or Pixar. Break out your laptop and Netflix binge - you can usually find free wifi in your settings but if you don't see it on available networks ask one of the nurses. Don’t have a current binge worthy show? Check out this list of must see Netflix shows.
While I do have artistic hobbies knitting has never been one of them, it’s never been something I’ve had an interest in. Last year Annie was admitted for a week for an extended EEG and around day 3 I was dying of boredom, the nurse of shift brought me yarn and knitting needles and showed my how to do it. It was crazy how fast the rest of the stay went, I ended up spending all of my free time knitting and made Annie and Tanner both (terrible) scarfs. Ask your nurse if they have available yarn and needles, most hospitals have crafts stashed away for board patients and parents.
Pick up a cheap journal or spiral notebook and some pens. You can journal about your little one’s stay everyday and save the journal for the next time you go - starting a collection of memories to look back on. This will be an amazing book to have in the future to reminisce on the time spent with your child and reminding you how strong the two of you really are. If journaling isn’t for you you can use this journal to write fictional stories. Write about your child - a superhero saving the day or a princess riding off on her trusty steed. Use your journal to write stories with your child or save if for some “you time”
Pick up a sketchbook and some colorful pens or pencils. There are SO MANY things you can do with a sketchbook. Are you an artist? Then you already know what to do with this bad boy! But if you’re not don’t count out the sketchbook. Art is not always about perfection - actually quite often it's about the opposite - use your sketchbook to draw something to brighten up your child's day, make get well cards for the other kids or congratulations for new moms on the maternity floor, write a short story and have your kiddo do the illustrations. If drawing is just not for you then your sketchbook could be transformed into an amazing bullet journal, it’s no secret that special needs parents thrive on organized planners and with a bullet journal you can add pages to write down reminders, thoughts and important appointments. If you're new to the bullet journal world check out this pinterest board for ideas!
If you’re anything like me then you make big plans to read a book after the kids are in bed and end up falling asleep on the couch with half a glass of wine. During hospital stays you have a lot of free time to kill and if your child is anything like Annie they will throw a fit anytime you try to abandon them in the room with a nurse (who needs to go to the cafeteria anyway?). Look at the upside, how often do you get this much free time? Bring that book that you’ve been meaning to read for the last year and finally break it open! Get lost in a fictional (or nonfiction) world and let yourself get lost in someone else’s life for a while.
This one might seem a bit out of place on an adult list but coloring books are all the rage these days, so much so that you can buy coloring book specifically marketed to adults. These days you can get coloring books full of intricate floral designs or cuss words- whatever you prefer. Head over to amazon to score your coloring book (with free shipping if you have prime!)
Considering most parents have a smartphone or tablet take advantage! The App store is full of free games so hop on to your app store and start looking around, download a handful of games that look entertaining. If they are all duds then delete them and start over until you find some good ones, what have you got to lose when it comes to free apps?
Reach Out to an Old Friend
It’s a sad truth but most pediatric patients don’t get to have both their parents with them during hospital stays (some don’t get one parent during an entire stay) so chances are that you're killing time solo once your kiddo goes to sleep or is taken for a procedure. Use this alone time to reach out to that friend that you’ve been meaning to text but never quite have the time. A strong support group is crucial when dealing with sick kids and hospital stays so don’t forget to keep in touch with yours.
Take a Walk
This unfortunately is not a luxury I get when Annie is in the hospital, after a countless amount of times of being poked and prodded Annie is not a big fan of pretty much anyone in scrubs. I have learned to bring my own food and wander within my room because annie screams bloody murder every time I leave the room. If you are fortunate enough to be able to wander around go out and take a walk. If your kiddo is still little ask their nurse if there is a volunteer that could come sit with them. I don't know about all hospitals but at ares they have volunteers on the pediatric floors just for parents to have time to themselves. Don't be afraid to ask and take advantage of resources offered by the hospital, the worst they could
Ask the Staff
This might seem like a give in but it’s something that many parents don’t think of doing. Hospitals know that you are bored out of your mind and usually have a small reserve of movies and crafts upon request.