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Going to hospital for most of us can be a stressful experience. Aside from finding ways to manage day to day responsibilities, we also have the procedure/surgery to look forward to. As adults we have our previous experience and knowledge to help us adjust to being in hospital. For children, especially young children, this may be their first experience…and it may be a little overwhelming.
Children look to their parents for support and follow their lead. So it helps to have a game plan. Here are some ideas to think about in preparing your child for hospital:
1.Be honest and open with them about what’s happening but think about the child’s developmental and what they can understand.
2.Encourage lots of questions about what will happen. Often this is a way that children can rehearse the steps involved.
3.For children with developmental disabilities (and young children) a social story outlining key steps can be useful too. Use pictures of the hospital and any equipment in your story.
4.For surgery which might require longer stays, ask the hospital if they have any pre-admission programs. These are where the child can come into the hospital and look at where they will be, meet staff and have a look around.
5.For younger children, “playing hospitals” with them and using a doll or Teddy Bear as the patient can not only be fun but also help to rehearse what will be happening.
6.For older children – ask if there is someone (e.g. a nurse or social worker) who can meet with the child prior to admission to walk them through what will happen.
7. And lastly, take a deep breath… children going to hospital can be anxiety provoking for parents too! Sometimes we have to take time to prepare ourselves as well as our children.
Hope this helps! Please feel free to talk to your consultants for support and other ideas on how to help your child and family prepare.