Preparing Your Child

What you can do to help your child cope with hospitalization

Stay with your child as much as possible; your child’s greatest fear is being separated from loved ones. If possible try to room in or coordinate visits with other family and friends if regulations allow. When you DO leave, say goodbye. Please try not to leave while your child is sleeping or preoccupied. Be honest about your comings and goings, so your child knows what to expect (even though your child may cry, they will continue to trust you). Bring a little bit of home to the hospital (blankets, pajamas, pictures, underwear, etc.), it reassures your child that he/she is loved and not forgotten. When young children are sick or injured, they may be very anxious. Be honest with your child about why he/she is in the hospital. If possible let them know when to expect tests and if needed, call the child life specialist. Older children need support and reassurance too. He/she may act brave, but in reality, children of all ages find the hospital scary and will benefit from love and attention.

Age appropriate facts of the hospitalized child

Toddler
Toddlers can participate in care and help whenever possible. They are energetic and very curious but need to be supervised at all times. Tell them it is okay to cry, yell, etc. Expect them to say no and ignore temper tantrums. Use distraction (bubbles, books, etc.), but use a firm, direct approach.

Preschooler
They can participate in care and help whenever possible. Common questions will be how? And why? Offer as many choices as possible. Explain tests using simple words and describe how it will feel, smell, sound, etc. Tell them it is okay to cry, yell, etc.

School Age
Same approach as above, give choices when possible, but avoid delays. Tell child what is expected of them.Praise child for helping, NEVER shame for being difficult during daily care, tests, etc. Keep child up to date with daily schedule - try to incorporate your normal home routine as well. Assure your child you are telling him/her everything that is going to happen. Children are less anxious when they know they can trust the people around them to answer their questions honestly and tell them what is happening.

Teenagers
Encourage teens to take as much responsibility for as much of their care as possible; offer choices and explanations to help maintain some control. Teens often worry about body image (what will happen to their bodies, how it will look and feel, etc.), their privacy, loss of independence, and contact with their friends. It is important to offer as much or as little information about the hospital/surgeries/tests, etc. as your teen wants. Encourage your child to ask questions and to express his/her feelings and concerns, to you as well as to staff. This gives some control to your child and promotes independence. Bring familiar things from home (pajamas, comfortable clothes, handheld games, CD players with favorite music, etc.).

**Patients and family will be responsible for all items brought from home

Related

What To Bring