How to Deal With Your Child Being Hospitalized
Just the thought of it has always broken your heart a bit. Some nights you couldn’t sleep as images of it flashed through you mind. So much so, you had to get out of bed and look in on your little one sleeping safe and sound in his or her bed before your mind could relax. But now the thing you dreaded has happened. Your child has been hospitalized, maybe for a routine surgery, maybe for a serious illness or injury. Either way, you feel overwhelmed with emotion as you watch your little one suffer.
It is truly a terrible thing to witness your child go through a hospital stay because, as overwhelming as it is for you, you know it is only more so for a child. What is going on? Why I am here? Will I be okay? These are just some of the questions and fears that might be running through your child’s mind, and we know you want to do everything in your power to help him or her feel safe in that cold and foreign place. Which is why we’ve put together this list of strategies you can use to bring comfort and security to your child during a frightening time.
Prepare them in advance.
We know that some of you won’t have this luxury. With medical emergencies, a child can end up in the hospital with no warning. However, with planned surgeries, chemo treatments and the like, you usually have time to prepare your child for what’s coming. Different ages will react to different preparation strategies, so we recommend discussing such things with your child’s medical team. But one thing that will hold consistent with all ages is this: you set the tone. Your child will look to you to measure just how serious this all is. This means your fear and your anger or your calm and your optimism will color the entire experience and have a profound impact on your child’s emotional state.
Talk to them.
Even very young children have specific questions about what will happen to them. Don’t lie or sugarcoat procedures they will face and any recovery they will go through. If something will hurt, let them know. Then you can be there for them in their fear. If you minimize the pain of something, it will be a betrayal once they experience the reality. Your child needs someone he or she can trust. That someone needs to be you.
It doesn’t matter what condition your child is in. You need to find some way to work within medical constraints to bring play to your child’s life while in the hospital. Laughter, smiles, the thrill of winning a card game, and so on: such experiences will release a cocktail of stress-relieving, mood-improving, pain-relieving chemicals in the brain. Play also proves a powerful distraction from whatever harsh realities might face your child.
Familiar objects, faces, and foods.
Anything you can do to make your child’s hospital room more like home is a plus. This means bringing favorite toys and stuffed animals from his or her bedroom, maybe even a plant or two if that is what he or she loves from the house. This also means inviting loved ones to visit as often as they can. Aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends: being around the people you love and experiencing the love they have for him or her will provide a serious morale boost. And of course, that special homemade snack or dessert will help your little one feel like he or she is back at home.
While it’s certainly possible to overdo this, now’s not the time to worry too much about spoiling your child. A couple new toys will provide the play and distraction we mentioned above, which you can’t put a price on. You also might surprise them with a get well soon delivery. Depending on their age, you can even say a favorite superhero sent it. Why not? If we can tell healthy kids about Santa Claus, we can certainly tell a little fib about gifts from superheroes if it will lift their spirits. If it is close to Christmas, maybe get them an early gift from their wish list.
We wish no one had to watch their child go through a hospital stay, but the unfortunate truth is that many parents must. We hope that the above tips can make a gut-wrenching situation just a little bit easier.
Have you had to use these tips before for your child?