Preparing Your School-Aged Child for the Hospital
School-aged children are able to understand the reason for a hospital stay and what will happen. The basic facts (who, what, where, when, why) are important to share. It is common for this age to be nervous about pain, the need to have shots and changes to their body. By preparing your child and reassuring her, you can help ease these worries.
School-aged children need to be prepared at least one week before coming to the hospital. This gives them time to ask questions and to make plans (for example packing items they'd like to bring from home and telling their friends and teachers). It is very important to be honest with your child. Many parents worry about upsetting their child by being truthful. However, keep in mind that your child will also be upset once they discover what is going on. It is best to be truthful so your child learns to trust you.
- Use simple, non-threatening language to explain that the doctors have decided that a part of the body is sick or needs to be fixed and why.
- Reassure your child that he has not done anything wrong to cause this to happen.
- Tell your child what they will see, hear, smell and feel while at the hospital. You can get this information from your child's doctor, nurse or child life specialist. Sometimes too much information is frightening, so be careful about sharing all the details.
- If your child will have a bandage or special equipment (such as an IV), talk about that in advance so there are no surprises.
- Reassure your child that you will be with him in the hospital and that you will all go home together when the doctor decides it is alright to do so.
- Encourage your child to bring a favorite stuffed animal, toy or other special item from home. This can help make the hospital more familiar and comfortable.
Keep in mind that not only the words you use but your feelings and body language (such as your tone of voice and facial expressions) can help your child feel more confident about the hospital visit. If you appear fearful and doubtful, your child may be more stressed than necessary. As a parent, you play a key role in creating a positive hospital experience for your child.