Having a child in hospital, or facing an operation can be one of the most stressful things for a family to experience, but there’s a lot you can do to prepare yourself and your child, and make everything as relaxed as possible.
Many hospitals send out information about treatment in advance, or have resources online to help you plan ahead. Sometimes you’ll even be able to visit the hospital beforehand so that your child can get to know the places and faces involved.
- Talk about the hospital visit in simple, straightforward language.
- See if you can visit the ward or department beforehand to familiarise your child with it.
- Encourage your child to ask questions.
- Reassure them that it’s normal to feel scared, and that they can always tell you if they’re worried or in pain.
- Think about how far ahead you talk to your child about their hospital stay. For 2-3 year olds, two or three days in advance (and again on the day) is fine, but for 4-7 year olds, you might start discussing it a week beforehand.
- Some children may enjoy being involved with preparation like packing their hospital bag, or choosing a toy to take along.
- If your child has special needs, talk to the hospital staff beforehand – many hospitals will have a checklist of details to discuss so that they can be ready to look after you and your child.
Looking after yourself
If your child is sick, undergoing medical treatment or having surgery, it’s natural that your focus is going to be entirely on them. However, it’s also really important that you look after yourself too – if you’re coping well, it make things much easier for your little one.
It’s easy to feel a bit side-lined when your child is in hospital, and it’s helpful if you can stay as involved as possible in their day-to-day care. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unsure about what’s going on – write things down as they occur to you to ask next time you have the opportunity.
Try to arrange for one friend or family member to pass on news to everyone else – this will save you the stress of phoning round lots of people with the same information when you just want to be spending with your child.