Preparing your child
Hospitalization can be a stressful time for your child and your family. By helping your child prepare, you can make the hospital experience more comfortable and positive.
To help prepare your child:
- Speak positively: Your feelings about hospitalization can affect your child’s emotions and behaviors, so remember to speak positively around your child when discussing your upcoming stay at the Chicago Shriners Hospital.
- Be honest: It is also important to be honest with your child about what a hospitalization entails using developmentally appropriate language in order for the child to understand. Answer your child’s questions openly and honestly, but keep it general and don’t promise anything. It’s appropriate to tell your child that you do not know the answer to a question. In these situations, you can let your child know that you will check with the treatment team to get them information.
- 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.
- Empower your child: Offer choices when possible.
Our hospital has a certified child life specialist on staff to help children understand and cope with difficult experiences that can occur during medical care. Following are some tips from our child life specialist that you can use to help prepare your child.
Preparing younger children:
- Read books with your child about going to the hospital.
- Age appropriate kid’s videos about going to the doctor or hospital can be helpful. Please note: sharing videos of surgical procedures with children may be traumatic and lead to misconceptions; therefore, they are not recommended.
- Encourage medical play. Allow your child to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
- 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 your child.
- Reassure young children that hospitalization is not a punishment, but a place where children heal.
- Bringing a few favorite photos of family, friends or pets may be helpful.
- Have your teen create a list of questions to ask the medical team to help understand his/her upcoming hospital experience.
- If possible, have your teen speak with someone who has had a similar hospitalization or condition. Our medical staff may be able to assist you with finding a family.
- Encourage your teen to maintain contact with family and friends through visits, texts, phone calls or social media.
- Have your teen pack for the hospital stay. Remind your teen to include both special and personal items like pictures of family and friends or music.
Helping siblings prepare for your child's hospital stay
Hospitalization can also be a stressful event for brothers and sisters at home. A sibling’s day-to-day routines may be changed as parents focus on a child who is in the hospital. They may feel neglected or isolated.
To ease potential anxiety, please remember to:
- Try to stick to routines as much as possible.
- Encourage siblings’ understanding of hospitalization.
- Encourage contact between siblings and the child in the hospital. If the siblings are unable to visit, help them feel included by suggesting siblings make decorations or get well cards.
- Continue to provide understanding and reassurance for the siblings at home.