The sad reality is that there will come a time when a child will need to be admitted into hospital. This may be an emergency admittance or it may be pre-planned admittance for a scheduled procedure, such as a tonsillectomy. Both events are just as traumatic and the ordeal is not only suffered by kids, but by moms too.
Depending on the age of the child, explain to them as best as possible what will happen when they are admitted. Most hospitals encourage that moms (or dads) stay with their children and will even provide meals and a bed or comfortable chair to sleep in. For parents with other commitments, such as other children at home or those who cannot take time off work, staying overnight with their hospitalized child is not an option. The most daunting aspect of hospital admittance is the separation from parents and the fact that kids will have to sleep in a strange bed, in a strange environment.
- If moms are unable to spend the night with the child, they should try and spend as much time as possible with their little patient. Depending on what the child is in hospital for and what the age of the child is, parents can bring in books and games and read and play with their kids during visitation. It may help to ask an aunt or mother-in-law to spend a few hours at the hospital while mom is working or tending to the rest of the family’s needs.
- Paediatric wards are generally staffed by caring and well–meaning staff that go out of their way to care for their young patients. Parents are urged to chat with the staff, making sure staff are aware of the child’s food preferences, or what they suggest can reduce the child’s anxiety.
- If the child is being admitted into the hospital for a scheduled operation or procedure and the date has been preset, parents can help kids prepare for their stay by buying kids books about hospitals. Once the surgery or procedure is over, make sure you are there to meet the child. The anaesthetic will make the patient feel confused and groggy and seeing a familiar face may help settle them.
- Pack familiar items from home for kids; this can be a special teddy, their own pillow or a blanket.
- If the hospital stay stretches over a few days, try to buy a small toy or treat for each day. The hours pass slowly for an adult in hospital – for a child the stay can see like an eternity. The anticipation of a new treat each day will give them something to look forward.
Once the child is discharged, parents should expect a slight difference in their behaviour. They may become a lot clingier or they may act out for attention. This is normal and it will pass!
– Kathy Baron