Preparation Strategies for Children with Hospital Fears

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Going to the hospital can be scary for patients of any age, but especially for children who have no idea what to expect and have heard fear-based language from others. When your child needs to undergo some sort of treatment in the hospital, you can do something to alleviate those fears. It all starts by providing comforting preparation ahead of time. Let them know that just because they are going to the hospital to undergo a treatment, does not mean they did something wrong. The less stress and anxiety your child has, the better the recovery will be.

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To help you help your child feel ready for a hospital stay, here is a list of five important preparation strategies worth doing with your child to encourage a calm experience:

Talk about what will happen.

As soon as you know your child is going to need to be in the hospital, familiarize yourself with as much as you can about the reasons for treatment, expectations for treatment, recovery time, etc. Once you have an understanding of your child’s medical condition and treatment, you’re better prepared to discuss it together. Find a quiet time when you can calmly and confidently talk about what will happen and why. If possible, walk through an abridged version of the treatment, so your child can really get a grasp of the whole process.

You can even use a stuffed animal to help visualize the procedure and encourage questions. Use language your child will understand, catered to his or her learning level. Provide honest and simple explanations. Make sure to explain that the treatment may be painful, and if they experience pain to share it with you immediately. You can explain that if something hurts, there are ways to lessen the pain like medications and you will be able to provide them with what they need to be comfortable.

Ask about hospital tours or preparation.

Depending on where you are, your hospital may offer tours for kids and their families who are receiving treatment, and/or it may provide age-appropriate preparation beforehand. Find out about these available programs, and, if so, take advantage of them in order to help your little one understand and set expectations for what will happen. Sometimes, walking through hospital hallways and treatment rooms can fill in gaps of understanding. When your child sees, hears and touches the place, he or she gains more knowledge than just verbal explanation. Some facilities may offer training kits or even a cuddly teddy bear!

Watch your verbal and nonverbal cues.

While you’re talking and touring with your child, be careful to communicate a calm and comforting presence both in what you say and how you say it. Your child is likely to read your tone and your body language when you’re discussing hospitalization. If you are saying things will be OK while acting scared or crying, your child will notice. The less you can appear fearful, the more confidence you can create for your child.

Welcome questions.

Encourage your child to talk to you about any concerns or fears ahead of time. When a question is something you can answer, do so. When you don’t know how to answer something, say you don’t know but can try to find out. When your child feels comfortable raising concerns, it can go a long way toward alleviating built-up fear. Make yourself a safe place for discussing concerns.

Pack some favorite things.

Try to make your child feel as comfortable as possible during the hospital stay. Help your child pack a suitcase or bag for the hospital, and, as you do, be sure to include some special items that bring comfort to him or her. This may include a stuffed animal, a blanket or something else. Knowing a treasured toy or item will be going along can help a child feel more at ease. Think of little ways to make their stay feel more home-like and familiar in order to lessen some fears.

In addition to the five ideas above, be sure to communicate to your child that you and/or other loved ones will be nearby as much as possible. Likewise, talk about the doctors and nurses who will be there to help. Assure your child that he or she isn’t alone and that you will go through this together. With open dialogue, information and comforting tools, you can make the hospital stay a better experience for everyone.

Elizabeth Duhan is the Marketing Project Specialist at Applied Medical Technology, Inc., a global leader and manufacturer of enteral feeding devices and accessories, upholding the highest standard for performance and quality assurance for over 30 years.

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