What Parents Can Do
- Get the who, what, why, and how about the stay
get information about who your child will be seeing, what kind of procedure or treatment they will need, why your child needs a procedure, how the procedure or treatment may feel and how long it will last. Advocate for your child by being with your child during the procedure, if you are told no. Ask to see a charge nurse and fight for your right to be present for the procedure.
- Be 100% honest and empathetic
Explain why they are being hospitalized or why a specific procedure is needed. Explain to the child what they will feel, hear, smell, and see. Be honest! If the procedure will hurt- tell them.
- Encourage curiosity and exploration
Becoming familiar with the medical environment and the equipment that will be used during treatment or procedures is very important to a child ability to cope with the unknown surroundings. They are much less afraid of an object if they have had exposure to it where they felt control some over it.
- Reassure your child
Make it clear that their hospitalization or procedure is not a punishment, many children view it as such. Make sure they understand the reason they are being hospitalized or why they need a proceudre, with the end goal to help their bodies get better so they can feel better and go home.
- Use simple, soft language
When describing a medical procedure, try to use words that do not have double meanings or are threatening in any way. “poke” instead of “stick or prick” and “numb” or “sleepy medicine” instead of “put to sleep”
- Listen and validate your child’s concerns
Let your child know that it is okay to ask questions, cry and talk about his or her feelings. If you really listen to a childs questions, you can see underlying concern and fear behind the question. Address these fears and concerns openly.
- Give your child choices
Allow your child to take more of an active role in their treatment plan. For example, letting them deciding which arm they want their poke or whether they sit on the examining table or on a parent’s lap. Giving them a part in these decisions can help lessen the anxiety they feel about the treatment or procedure.
- Comfort your child
Touching is an important part of healing. Hold and cuddle your child as often as the child needs. If medical needs prevent you from holding or rocking your child, it may be possible to still stroke your child or hold his or her hand.
- Allow and encourage play. Either in the playroom or at bedside
Children learn about their world and how to cope with fears and unknowns by playing. Some parents often say, my child is too sick to play. NO WAY! Play gives children some control and a way to make sense of their feelings. Playing with dolls or toy figures, drawing pictures, or role play are not only a way for a child cope and escape reality, it is a meaningful way to teach children about their health care experiences. Ask if a Child Life Specialist is on staff. If so, make sure to request one!
* adapted from "What Parents Can Do To Help", Miller Children's Hospital. www.millerchildrenshospitallb.org