If, God forbid, a friend's child falls ill, here are some practical ways you can help the family get through a difficult and emotional time.
• Visit regularly.
• Bring over meals. You can pick up entire prepared meals from the grocery store freezer section. "These are great to bring along as hospital meals for the parent who is staying over," says Susan Harvey of Ottawa, whose daughter Katie has finished treatment for leukemia.
• Do things for the sick child's siblings. For example, invite them to the library for a Saturday story-telling, or take them for dinner and a video.
• Arrange to take the siblings to school every day and pick them up afterward.
• Send cards or other greetings. Parents, teachers and friends at Graydon's school made a fabulous video of all his classmates wishing him well and a Merry Christmas.
• Put one person in charge of volunteers. Susan advises that this is "so you don't end up with 50 casseroles sitting on your front porch when you arrive home from the hospital."
• Do some yard work for the neighbour who has a sick child (cut the grass, water the garden, shovel the snow).
• Offer to do some housecleaning, or send over the service you use yourself.
• Walk their dog and maybe run him to the vet or the groomer when necessary.
• Ask for the car keys and take it for a wash and a vacuum.
• Demand two baskets of laundry and return them clean.
• If you share car pools with the family, speak to the others in the group and fill in for them.
• Tell the parents when you're going to the supermarket and get their grocery list.
• Call when you're running out to the store to see if they need anything.
• Drop off a coffee, no chat required (or if a chat is what's needed, sit down and listen) if you're in the neighbourhood.
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