How to Support and Educate Your Child for What's to Come
We know that visits to the hospital can be stressful and intimidating. An important thing to keep in mind when you're discussing upcoming hospital visits with your child is to keep things positive.
Be honest with them about what to expect and answer any questions they might have. Your physician or care manager will also be able to provide answers as needed. Remember that a hospital is usually an unknown place for a child and that can feel scary if they don't have any information going into it. By helping your child prepare, you can put them at ease and make their experience more comfortable and even pleasant.
Some tips for having these conversations with your child are:
Be honest. Answer your child’s questions openly and honestly.
Remain supportive. You are your child’s source of comfort and love.
Ask questions. Be sure to have a clear understanding of your child’s hospitalization.
Share with staff what is comforting to your child.
Read stories or watch videos with your child about going to the hospital.
Encourage doctor play. Allow your child to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
Talk about your child's upcoming treatment with them using simple words that they will understand.
Have these conversations within two days of the appointment. For young children, it can be difficult to comprehend time, so giving them the information close to the appointment date is important.
Allow your child to help pack. Let them choose a few favorite items to bring to the hospital.
Know what is comforting to your child and share those methods with the staff members helping to care for them.
Adolescents and Teens
Have your teen speak with someone who has had a similar hospitalization experience.
Encourage your teen to maintain contact with family and friends through visits, phone calls, email or mail.
Older children and teenagers can require more time to prepare for the appointments, so talk to them about it at least a week before they are scheduled for their procedure(s).
Have your teen pack for their hospital stay. Remind them to include both special and personal items – pictures of family and friends, music and other small activities. Please leave valuables at home.
Hospitalization can also be a stressful event for brothers and sisters at home. Their day-to-day routine may be altered with the absence of a caregiver. Brothers and sisters may experience feelings of isolation.
To ease potential anxiety, please remember to:
- Encourage siblings’ understanding of hospitalization.
- Encourage contact between siblings and your child being hospitalized.
- Continue to provide understanding and reassurance for the siblings while at home.
Preparing your Child for Surgery
Preparing your child for surgery can be an important step to minimizing the anxiety that they may feel about having a surgical procedure, especially if it is your child’s first time having surgery.
Shriners offers pre-operative tours for you and your child to help familiarize you with the hospital and the surgery unit, so on the day of surgery, there is less to worry about. A child-life specialist can help explain the surgery process to your child in a way that is non-threatening and can help answer the questions that your child may be afraid to ask.
To schedule a pre-op tour or to speak with a child-life specialist about your child’s surgery, please call the Shriners Children's location where your child is receiving their care.