How to Prepare Children for Their Hospital Stay

Taking time to prepare you and your child for your hospital stay can make your visit more comfortable. These tips may help.

  • Talk to your child. Encourage your child to discuss his or her feelings and ask any questions.

  • Be honest with your child about why he or she needs to go to the hospital. Try to prepare them for their procedure by using age-appropriate language.

  • Remind your child that the visit is only temporary and you will go home when the doctor says it’s OK.

  • Remind your child that they didn’t do anything wrong and they are not being punished by going to the hospital. Let them know that they need to go to the hospital, so the doctors can figure out why they keep getting sick.

  • Let your child help you pack for the hospital and allow them to bring their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, pajamas, movie and toy.

What to Bring

We recommend bringing the following items to the hospital:

  • You child's medical records (including copies of his or her most recent lab results and X-rays)

  • Prescription and non-prescription medication lists

  • Insurance information

  • The name and phone number of your child's primary care physician

  • Your child may also need:

  • A robe, pajamas, slippers and a comb

  • Comfortable, casual clothing and shoes

  • Equipment unique to your child, like wheelchairs or feeding tubes

  • A comfort object, such as a blanket or toy

  • School work if he or she is expected to stay three or more days

Please leave any valuables at home.

For Siblings

When you have a child  in the hospital, his or her siblings are also affected. Here are some ways to help siblings cope with the hospitalization of a sibling.

  • Be honest with your child about why his or her sibling is in the hospital. Use simple, concrete language with them.
  • If their sibling has been diagnosed with an illness or disease, talk to your other children about what that illness or disease is. They may want to know if it’s contagious.
  • Check with staff to see if siblings can visit. We promote family-centered care and know that a big part of healing is having the entire family present.
  • Sometimes, children may feel left out because their parents are at the hospital for long periods of time. Try to set aside special one-on-one time with that child. This may help with the adjustment.
  • If the siblings are not able to visit, try to keep them connected by writing letters, drawing pictures, or video chat using FaceTime, Skype, etc.
  • If your child is able to visit, prepare them for what they will see, including the sights and sounds of the hospital setting.

 

If your child is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), you will need to prepare siblings for a more overwhelming environment. Click here for tips on how to prepare siblings for a visit to the PICU.

Grief

Grief is never an easy topic to discuss, especially when there are children involved. The following tips and resources may help in explaining death and prepare children for the death of a loved one.

Child Life Can Help

If you are concerned about how to discuss any of this with your child, Child Life Specialists at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital can help. They are trained to teach children and families the skills it takes to cope with a hospitalization. During surgery, Child Life Specialists can help children and families prepare for the experience by using medical play, age-appropriate explanations and comfort measures. If you are interested in speaking or meeting with a Child Life Specialist, call 920-433-8641 or notify your child’s doctor.