by Wallis Davies, M.S., CCLS
Hospitalization can be a traumatic event
for children and their families. Preparing your child for a hospital stay,
however, can reduce the confusion and stress surrounding admission day. Here are
some ways to ensure that your child's hospitalization is a positive
Preparing children for a hospital stay can increase their confidence and
ability to cope. T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital at Erlanger provides tours
for children who are scheduled for surgery. Tours include a visit to the
outpatient surgery area. During the hospital tour, children have opportunities
to handle and play with medical equipment so they can become familiar with the
items and medical procedures before surgery.
While in the hospital, your
child can benefit from being surrounded by familiar objects from home. Some
children like to wear their own clothes or pajamas. Plan to bring the child's
favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or toy. If your child has an extended hospital
stay, you may want to bring family photos to display in the hospital
Visits from family and friends also can be important for your
child. T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital has a flexible visitation policy,
dependent upon the patient's condition.
Younger children do not need much advance notice of hospitalizations. Knowing
about their upcoming hospital stay more than a day or two before the event only
gives them more time to worry. On the other hand, school-age children and
adolescents need more time to process the information and have the opportunity
to ask questions.
Of course, not every hospital stay is planned. Parents
can help children cope with an emergency visit-or a scheduled admission-by
providing them with clear, accurate, and age-appropriate information throughout
the hospital stay. Children need to know what is going to happen to them and how
it is going to feel.
Your child, for example, may ask if a procedure will
hurt. A good response is: "Some kids say it hurts. Some kids say it doesn't
hurt. I don't know how it will feel for you." This type of answer can empower
children, giving them some control over the situation.
child life specialists are available at T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital to
help patients adjust to hospital routines and procedures. T. C. Thompson
Children's Hospital Foundation supports the only Child Life Department in this
region. Child life specialists focus on meeting the nonmedical needs of
hospitalized children and young adults.
Determining children's emotional needs after a hospitalization can be as
critical as assessing their physical condition. Youngsters often exhibit
behavior problems when they return home from the hospital. Some regress in their
behavior, while others may experience sleeping difficulties. Many children need
extra attention from family and loved ones during this time. Give children every
opportunity to discuss what happened and how it made them feel. Encourage your
child to discuss the hospital experience with you. Younger children may need the
opportunity to "play through" their hospital visit. Older children may want to
talk about their hospital stay.
Davies, M.S., CCLS, is the Child Life Director of T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital at Erlanger (423-778-6814).