How can I help my toddler cope with hospitalization?

You can help your toddler cope with hospitalization by preparing him or her a day before the hospital. Simple, age appropriate explanations are best. Remember that toddlers are still learning the meanings of words that you may think are simple, like arm surgery or anesthesia. Instead you may say “fix your arm” or “sleepy medicine.” Using a book may help you facilitate conversation and answer questions in a more concrete, age appropriate manner. Allowing your child to play with a medical kit may help your child attain mastery over otherwise scary equipment and procedures and may help with expression of feelings. During the hospital stay it may be helpful to have the doctor or nurse check you before your child. For example, the nurse may check your heart before your child’s. Allow your toddler to make simple realistic choices like which outfit to wear to the hospital or which stuffed animal to bring, avoiding unrealistic choices like what time would you like to go to the hospital. It is normal for your toddler to be fussy, so be patient and try to maintain as normal an environment as possible by providing comfort and familiar items.

To help your toddler cope with hospitalization, try the following:
  • Participate in your toddler's care.
  • Allow for motor activity.
  • Maintain your toddler's daily schedule including bedtime.
  • Offer realistic choices when possible.
  • Expect your toddler to resist treatment.
  • Provide simple explanations.
  • Bring your toddler's favorite comfort items or toys.
  • Use positive reinforcement, such as giving prizes.
This content originally appeared on the Alliance for Kids website.

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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.