Whether it is planned or unplanned, spending time in the hospital can be stressful—especially for children—and the stresses of a hospital visit can negatively affect recovery. It’s important to prepare your child for the medical care he or she will receive and relieve your child’s stress.
Here are a few ways to ease your child’s stress and promote a healthy recovery.
- Prepare for the hospital stay, if it is planned. You can use different methods to help your child get ready for the hospital, depending on his or her age. Talk to doctors, nurses, or Child Life Specialists about the best ways to prepare your child. For school-age children, read books about hospital stays where the child gets better and goes home afterwards, and describe what he or she can expect at the hospital. Many hospitals also allow parents and children to visit the hospital beforehand.
- Allow time to talk and ask questions. If the hospital stay is planned, allow your child the opportunity to ask any questions he or she may have and to discuss his or her fears or other concerns. Give simple explanations that will be easier for your child to understand, and do not lie—it’s okay to not have an answer. It is important to establish trust with your child.
- Give them a chance to play. Encourage your child to play as much as possible. Playing with toys, books, arts and crafts, or games can occupy a child’s mind and distract him or her from pain, anxiety, and illness in general. Play can also be organized at the hospital; ask a nurse or Child Life Specialist about this.
- Bring familiar objects from home. On a similar note, bring toys, stuffed animals, or other familiar objects from home with you to the hospital room. In an unfamiliar place, it can be comforting to have a few items that the child recognizes.
- Invite visitors. If it is an extended hospital stay, and visitors are allowed, invite family members to visit. This can help the child connect with the outside world, and the familiar faces can be reassuring. If visitors aren’t allowed, organize video chats instead.
- Be a positive role model. Parents often feel stressed too. Keep in mind that you are a role model for your child’s behavior. Maintain a calm demeanor around your child to help alleviate some of his or her fears, as opposed to escalating any anxieties.
We understand that you may feel sad and helpless when your child is in pain or discomfort. You may all feel anxious because you don’t know what will happen next. It is just as important to find methods to alleviate your stress as it is to alleviate your child’s stress. Above all, it is important to support your child by staying close to them.
After a hospital stay, a private nurse can provide extra assistance with any skilled need, including wound care, surgical site monitoring, tracheostomy suctioning, feeding tubes, and other complex medical needs. Respite care can give parents the opportunity to focus on parental care and love instead of medical care responsibilities.