By Wilma Bedford
Your child has to go to hospital and he feels anxious about what is going to happen to him, about the strange environment, that he will be operated on and that you as parent might forget him there.
By preparing your child you lessen his anxiety and fear and promote his cooperation. It also helps you to prepare for the procedure and for the necessary after-care. Keep your own feelings in check and process your own fear before you talk to your child; if you can cope, your child will be able to cope. Be honest, tell him what is wrong with him and why he must receive treatment. Don’t say it won’t hurt if it will, for example an injection.
Plan ahead: Talk to the paediatrician and nursing staff and be informed about the procedure. Let the nursing staff know about specific words your child uses when, for example, he wants to use the toilet. Be aware of and prepared for the after-care and possible follow-up visits and inform your child about them.
Assure your child you will be there, that you will see him after the procedure and during visiting hours and that you won’t forget him in the hospital. Listen to what your child asks and be honest. Answer one question at a time. If you don’t know the answer, say so and say you will ask the doctor next time you see him. Tell him what he will see, feel and smell, but don’t tell him, for example, how his tonsils will be removed, as he won’t see it. Say the operation will be painful but medication will make it better.
Visit the hospital and, if possible, the ward where your child will be lying so that he can familiarise himself with his new surroundings. Take sweets for the other patients and let your child communicate with them. If it isn’t possible to visit the hospital or the ward, tell your child he will be sharing a ward with other children of his age and that the room will look different from his room at home.
Play doctor-nurse and nurse a doll. Read stories about the hospital, even if your child is not going to hospital – it will happen sometime or other. Use medical terminology that he will encounter, such as stethoscope, blood pressure machine and explain the purpose of these instruments. Talk about hygiene in the operating theatre, and explain why nursing staff wear masks and sterilised overcoats.
Take along your child’s favourite blanket or a soft toy. Help relief your child’s stress by giving him a stress ball to press, or a bottle of soapy water with which to blow bubbles.
If your child is afraid and doesn’t want to go, tell him why he has to go; explain why the procedure is important. Focus on the positive outcomes and why things will be better after the procedure, for example that he will breathe easier and enjoy playing more.
Be there for your child; let him feel important and special. In this way you build a life-long trust relationship with your child.
How to Prepare for Your Kids First Hospital Visit
Loney, Sidney. Mar 2018 Today’s Parent. https://www.todaysparent.com