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Focus: Tips To Help Children In Hospitals
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2009

When children need to be hospitalized it is important that we prepare them as best we can. What can be a difficult experience for them and their family can be altered by the feelings you as a parent, grandparent, or friend show the child. Always offer information about the experience that is age-appropriate in a positive and honest way.

Here are some tips to help you focus during such difficult times:

Prepare Your Child for the Visit - Gather information from your doctor and the hospital. Explain to your child what to expect. Present information honestly, and answer any questions your child may have. Consider touring the hospital ahead of time.

Provide Support During Hospitalization - Bring some special belongings (make sure your child's name is on them). Stay with your child as much as you can, and arrange for another person close to your child to stay when you cannot. Call your child often when you are not there. Bring in photos of friends and family. Prepare a tape cassette of you reading your child's favorite stories.

Keep Communicating During the Hospital Experience - Request that the nurses and doctors give you information about procedures before they occur. Give honest explanations to your child about treatments after you obtain the information. Listen to your child's feelings (fears, anger, frustration) and acknowledge them. Give compliments, hugs and encouragement frequently. Tell your child that you admire him/her.

Maintain Normal Routines as Much as Possible - Bring in school assignments and work with your child's teacher to help your child stay caught up with school work. Provide opportunities for independence, choices and decision making (i.e.,choosing what to wear, what movie to watch or toy to play with). Try to avoid giving your child unusual privileges and excessive gifts.

Recognize That Your Child May Display Temporary Behavior Changes - Be patient. Give your child time to readjust. Stay with your child as much as possible. Help your child talk about the experience, either in conversation or by drawing pictures. Make a scrapbook with your child about the hospital.

Thanks to Rockford Health Systems for some of these tips.

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