Preparing for Hospitalization
You can help ease some of the anxiety that your child and the rest of the family may have about an upcoming hospitalization. It may be helpful to:
- Schedule a time with your child’s doctor to go over your child’s procedures, risks, expected length of stay and necessary follow up care. This will help you have a clear understanding of the medical or surgical treatments your child is expected to have.
- Ask your doctor’s nurse or hospital child life specialist about what, when and the best way to tell your child.
- Visit the hospital ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the hospital layout, rooms and services. A nurse or medical social worker can go over hospital rules for parents staying overnight, visiting hours for siblings and friends, suggestions for packing, available hospital facilities, special services, and tips for preparation and care.
- Pack your child’s familiar or favorite items to provide comfort and security. This might include his/her sleepwear, daily toiletries, a special blanket, book, family photo, favorite toys and music.
Talking to Your Child
It is a good idea to talk to your child about his/her medical procedure or treatment at the hospital. In general, children who are reassured of what lies ahead are less anxious and better able to cope with their hospitalization. When and what you tell your child will depend on their age, previous experience, ability to understand and emotional make-up.
- Experts recommend that children under three should be told two or three days before and older children one or two weeks ahead. If there are other siblings, it is a good idea to also inform them of what is going to happen.
- For the younger child, it is best to tell them honestly in age appropriate language the reasons they need to go to the hospital and what they should expect on the day of the medical procedure and during their recovery.
- For older school-age children, they can be given a more detailed explanation of the medical issue, what needs to be done and the benefits of the scheduled procedure.
A child life specialist can provide additional materials and further guidance in this area.
During the Hospitalization