Tips for Parents

When you child has to visit any hospital, it can be extremely stressful. Here are a few things for you and your family to keep in mind during this time.

  • Know that you are not alone – Visit The Zone or the Ronald McDonald Family Room and meet other people and children who are in similar situations. Also, there are support groups and services available that you should take advantage of. Learn more about our Support Services.

  • Try to stay calm – Even if things are scary or concerning, try to stay calm around your child because they will feed directly off of your energy. We are not asking you to keep things bottled up by any means, though. It is important that you take time to talk about your concerns.

  • Ask questions – If there are things you don’t understand or want more information on, ask anyone at the hospital. They will be happy to help. Information is power and understanding what is happening can be assuring and help you relax.

  • Write your questions down – When you get to the hospital, emotions run high and it can be difficult to remember everything that you wanted to ask. Make a list of the questions you have before coming to the hospital so you don’t feel like you missed anything.

  • Bring along things to do – This means for both your child as well as yourself. Sometimes you may have longer periods of downtime than expected, so there is no reason you should sit around bored. For your child, be sure to pack things that keep them occupied, like toys, games, books, portable DVD players and movies or anything else that keeps them happy. For you, pack books, magazines, work and even a laptop or iPad. (There is free Wi-Fi at the hospital.)

  • Talk to your child ahead of time – It is important to prepare your child for their visit to ensure that they cope with the situation as best as possible. We recommend that you read through the children’s book on this site with them to get the conversation started. You should also schedule an appointment with the Child Life Department so your child can become acclimated with The Children’s Hospital. Finally, we recommend purchasing a toy medical kit so your child can get used to playing with medical equipment. This helps reduce their fears when they get to the hospital.

Common Fears

It is completely normal for your child to be fearful about their visit. Below are some of the very common fears we have noticed among our patients. If you think your child might be concerned about any of these things, please discuss these topics with them before their visit.

  • Swallowing pills - A lot of patients have never had to swallow pills before and this can be difficult and cause anxiety. If your child has never swallowed pills before, the Child Life Specialists will help them practice when they are at the hospital.

  • Wearing the hospital pajamas - It may seem strange, but a lot of patients do not want to wear the hospital pajamas. We have found that giving up their own pajamas is another control that they are forced to relinquish, and it can be upsetting. While children can wear their own pajamas most of the time, they will have to wear the hospital pajamas for their procedures.

  • Seeing white coats and masks - The medical attire can be quite scary for children. It is important to remind them that the members of their medical team are the same nice people, even under the masks, hats and coats.

  • Waking up in surgery - Unfortunately, a lot of children have seen a movie where a patient wakes up during surgery and are scared that this might happen to them. It is important that they know that this will not happen, and they will not wake up until after the surgery is over.

  • Putting on the anesthesia mask - The idea of putting on a mask and breathing air through it can be concerning for everyone, especially children. It is important to emphasize that they are wearing it to make sure that they stay asleep during surgery. Also, when they get to the hospital, the Child Life Specialist can show them the mask and let them play with it to try to alleviate any fears. Also, they can pick a flavor (bubble gum, strawberry, grape, root beer, cherry or watermelon) that the mask will smell like to make it more fun.

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