Going to hospital is a scary experience for every child, but there are plenty of ways to alleviate those fears. Writing for TiNY began in the hospital setting where I used my drawings to distract children from procedures, to explain their operation/condition to them and to allow the child to express their own concerns.
Children’s worries do not differ too much from an adults concerns about a hospital stay. The difference is that they are emotionally immature and the topic needs to be approached carefully by parents and health care professionals.
My top tips are:
Time: Give your school age child as much notice a possible. A child who is told last minute is often much more anxious than the child who has had the time to ask questions. A young toddler may need just a few days’ notice, as their understanding of time is different to that of a school age child. You know your child best, so follow your instinct.
Children deserve the same respect and dignity as any adult. However, most decisions will be made by their parents and health care providers.
Give your child some sense of autonomy and sense of control. For example allow them to choose what goes into their overnight bag or who comes to visit them.
Listen: Your child may become moody, distant, or angry. Allow them to behave this way (within reason) and be as supportive as possible. You are the best source of comfort to your child.
Play: Play has a very important role both before and during your child’s hospital visit. Role-play with your child using a play medical kit before their stay. While in hospital, utilise the playroom and its resources. There is often a specialised Play Therapist there who has special skills and will work with your child. It is also an opportunity for your child to make friends.
My top tip as a mother and a paediatric nurse is to choose your words carefully. Children are quite literal, so put yourself in their position before you explain any aspect of hospital to them. This Is why pictures or an age appropriate children’s book can help to prepare your child for a hospital stay.
Writing for TiNY has two hospital books, one which prepares the child for a day surgery and one for a surgery that requires an overnight admission. This book is a highly effective communication and preparation tool for your child. They are in the story, which will instantly engage them in the story.