A hospital visit is always unpleasant for a child – they are out of their routine, often have painful procedures and are surrounded by strange faces in a strange place. However, much of what your child takes home with him can be influenced by your attitude.
What to tell your child
In protecting our children, we sometimes bend the truth a little, but you cannot lie about a hospital visit. The reason is simple: If you lie, the child’s trust will be broken and a following hospital visit might be more traumatic.
If you know there are going to be painful procedures, tell him that it will be painful, but it is going to be over quickly. Never tell your child a doctor or nurse is a “bad” or “nasty” person for hurting him. Rather tell him that they do not want to hurt him, but that it is necessary to make him better. Always praise and reassure.
And be truthful about why he is in hospital. Say something like: ‘You know those tonsils that always make your throat so sore? We are going to hospital so that the doctor can remove them. It might hurt, but afterwards your throat will not get sick so much as before.’
You should prepare yourself as well. With most hospital visits there will be many tears, but your child is in hospital to get well. A doctor will only admit your child if he feels in his professional opinion that it is necessary. The nursing staff are there to help, and it is important that your respect them and see them as allies towards your child’s recovery.
How to keep them busy
Most hospitals allow a parent to stay with the child. The positive thing is that it still makes you the primary caretaker of the child, and it comforts them to have a parent present. On the downside, it is up to you to keep your child busy – and that can be a daunting task, especially since sometimes a child is hospitalised for procedures but may be quite well otherwise.
Be prepared – if you know you are going to stay in hospital for a while, ask your child what he would like to take with. Older children are easier – a handheld game console or MP3 player will keep them occupied for hours. Younger children are more of a challenge. Take a backpack and ask your child to fill it with his favourite toys. Also take with some colouring books and crayons, puzzles, play dough and a storybook or two. It is never a good idea to ‘reward’ your child’s behaviour in hospital by buying new toys, but sometimes a surprise toy is needed just to smooth things over.
Most hospitals have a play room in the ward. This might seem like a good idea, but some really sick children also play in there, and your child might pick up a germ from playing with the same toys. You will probably have to play in the playroom at some time, so just be aware.
If the ward has a DVD player (most of them do and the movies can be watched inside the room as well), take some of your child’s favourite movies along.
If your child is not seriously ill and is mobile, take him for a walk in the halls or to the cafeteria. Never take your child out of the ward without permission and never take your child out of the hospital without proper discharge procedures.
Has your child ever been hospitalised? Share your story below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.