How can I help my child cope with hospitalization?

To help your child cope with hospitalization, try the following:

  • Offer choices when possible.
  • Teach coping strategies that encourage mastery.
  • Help your child recognize when he or she is coping effectively.
  • Encourage child participation in care.
  • Give your child tasks to help.
  • Give specific information about the body part effected.
  • Identify and correct your child's misconceptions.
  • Respect your child’s modesty.
  • Provide age appropriate activities that foster a sense of accomplishment.
  • Have your child bring comfort items, toys and activities.

This content originally appeared on the Alliance for Kids website.

Some factors that affect how your child will respond to illness, injury or being in the hospital, are not in our control. These include things such as a child's age, length of stay in the hospital and type of illness, injury or surgery. On the other hand, there are some ways you and others can help support and comfort your child:

  • Encourage your child to eat, play, nap, and go to bed at regular times, as much as possible. This will help your child to predict what will happen. In turn, this will increase your child's sense of control, which is important. The healthcare setting takes away much of your child's sense of power over his body and world. Being able to predict what will happen next helps your child feel more in control.
  • Provide choices whenever possible. This, too, will increase your child's sense of control. Examples of choices children might have include what to eat, whether to have a bath now or after a video, whether to drink juice or milk, choosing to have a temperature taken in the right ear or left ear, etc. It is also important to be clear about not offering a choice when there truly is not one. For example, when your child has no choice about when medicine can be taken, state: "It is time to take your medicine now" rather than ask, "It's time to take your medicine, okay?"
  • Mentally prepare your child for procedures. Child-life specialists can help to provide age appropriate preparation for you and your child. Ask your nurse or doctor to contact one of the child-life staff before a procedure or surgery. Giving your child accurate, honest information about a procedure or surgery will lessen his fears and worries, and will help him cope well. This is true for children as young as one year of age.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.