I apologize for not posting in so long. My dear father, Wade Hampton, began having health issues in late December and passed away in January. Needless to say, I have had a lot to juggle over the past few months.
While sitting at the hospital with my father, I reflected on the countless times I had to take our young children to the hospital and wait for hours, sometimes overnight, while my husband/their father was very ill. I see so many people in this position, not having the option to leave their children with a relative or friend, causing them to take their little ones everywhere they visit. Thankfully, I was able to navigate this and have nice memories about some of the activities I led them in doing during our down time in various waiting and hospital rooms.
My #1 most important tip is this: Plan ahead and be prepared! Boredom is the issue that will lead to disruptive behavior and will drive them (and you!) nuts. Therefore, plan to prevent it.
Here are my tried-and-true tips to help you (and your children) spend hours on end successfully:
1. Dress comfortably (especially when choosing footwear, as you will be on your feet a lot).
2. Take what you need, but not too much to lug around.
3. Have each child pack a small bag or backpack with items to keep them busy and comfortable.
Suggested items include a light jacket or sweater (hospitals can get chilly), a snack and water bottle, an activity, homework, or something to read.
Again, you don’t want to have too much to carry, but you do want the basic essentials. Mind you, there were no laptops, tablets, or smartphones when I took our children. It can be easier these days if your children use these items, but I still believe the activities should vary or they will still get restless. Plus, I think reading books or practicing homework is important.
4. Set expectations for good behavior and lead by example.
5. Kids are curious, so explain their surroundings.
Explain what signs say and use the opportunity to educate them. For example, a sign says to “Wash Your Hands.” Ask why this is important and discuss what germs are and how they can be harmful. Practice good handwashing. If you have a little boy, he will surely find the vomit bags hilarious. Ask if you can have one to let them hold/keep. Find the fire exits and talk about fire safety. It may sound ridiculous, but these things work. Trust me!
6. Find ways to burn off MENTAL as well as PHYSICAL energy.
Play games like I Spy. Walk or run stairs. Go outside to run sprints. Change your location when possible. We used to go to a special waiting room that had a beautiful fish tank to break up the time.
7. Make it meaningful.
One activity I did with our children was so special. We talked at home about what nurses do and why they are so important. Our children made handmade thank you cards. We then took flowers in vases and the cards, passing them out to nurses around the facility. I let them choose who they would each give their flowers and cards to. It showed our children to be thankful and generous, and made such a difference to the nurses who received them.
8. Be present.
Be WITH your children, wholly. They want, and need, your positive attention. The more you focus on them in a healthy way, the less you will all be irritable and frustrated.
Taking your young children can truly be stressful and isn’t ideal, but we must take what life gives us, and always do our best. Making beautiful memories in the midst of difficult times builds resilience and character- for everyone.