Preparing Your Child
Getting Ready to Talk
Before discussing your child’s upcoming stay at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, get all the facts together by reading about your child’s health information and talking with the medical staff.
Talking With Your Child at Home
As you talk with your child, these tips can help them feel safer about their upcoming visit:
- Listen to your child.
- Be honest about what will happen and what may hurt.
- Use short, simple terms they know.
- Reassure your child that if something hurts, there are ways to make the pain go away including medicine, relaxation, listening to music and playing games.
- Use one of your child’s stuffed animals to show what will happen and to encourage them to talk about their fears.
- Reassure your child you will try to be with them as much as you can and that one parent can sleep near them.
- If your child seems uneasy with talk about the hospital, stop and try again later.
- Reassure your child that having to go to the hospital does not mean they did something wrong.
Helping Children of Different Ages
Children understand things based on their age and developmental level. You probably have many ideas of your own. Here are some of ours that you might also find helpful:
Infants and Toddlers
Infants and toddlers need to have familiar objects around them at the hospital. Bring some of your child’s favorite toys and blanket. The more you keep up usual routines at the hospital, such as feeding and bathing, the more comfortable they are likely to be. See if another close family member or friend can be with your child during visiting hours if you must be away from the hospital or need a break.
Two to Six-Year-Olds
As children get older, they can be told that they are going to the hospital and what will happen there. It is important to let your child express his/her feelings. Give clear and simple responses. Say things like, “I’ll bet you’re wondering what it’s going to be like at the hospital, aren’t you?” Let your child be the doctor to you, a doll or stuffed toy. They can “operate” on it, give it “shots” or just apply a band-aid.
Six to Twelve-Year-Olds
Many of our suggestions for younger children are helpful with this age group. However, these children understand more than younger children and will likely ask more questions about their illness or surgery. Explain that the hospital treats children of all ages, with many different medical problems. It’s important to explain that doctors, nurses and other people at the hospital will do certain tests and procedures to find out what’s wrong with your child and to make them feel better.
Teenagers are able to understand full explanations about their illness and treatment, but that doesn’t mean they completely understand everything that will happen. They may be reluctant to ask questions. Encourage your teenager to talk with their doctors and nurses about their condition. Be sure the teenager is included in discussions and decisions about their care so they will feel independent and more in control. Your teen may be worried about his/her privacy. Reassure him/her that the hospital staff will treat them with respect. Even at this age, a familiar object, book and video, etc. can help them feel calmer at the hospital.