» Children’s Feelings
How children feel about being in the hospital depends on their age.
When answering your child’s questions, keep your comments simple for preschool children. School-age kids and teens can handle more complex talk of their illness and their care. Be honest and let children know what to expect, but don’t tell them something won’t hurt if you know it will.
Parents and babies need time with each other. (Babies need time with their consistent caregiver). Holding, stroking, cuddling, singing, talking, smiling and playing will help an infant cope with being in the hospital and form a secure attachment with their caregiver. You can do these things even with a lot of hospital equipment around your child.
It is hard for toddlers to be away from their parents. They often think they are being left for good, even when you say you will be back. Reassure your child and continue familiar patterns and habits. Inform hospital staff of your child’s daily routine of sleeping, eating, playing so we can try to be as consistent as possible.
Preschool children have a tough time understanding illness. Use simple words and explain in sensory terms according to what the child will see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. Children under five may believe they are being punished for “being bad”, reassure them that they have done nothing to deserve this. Children at this age often have a strong fear of needles. Medical play with a child life specialist, may be a way for them to address these fears.
School-age children often fear harm to their bodies. They may have a difficult time emotionally, in dealing with the pain they experience. Involvement in school work, play activities, and relaxation sessions may help keep their minds off their pain. Allow your child to make simple choices about the care they receive, so they feel like they have a sense of control.
Teens need to have some control over their lives. Their illness may make this even harder. Allow teens to make choices while at the hospital and be involved in making decisions related to their care. They may resent their circumstances and often worry about how their illness may affect their looks. Journaling, drawing, or socializing with peers may assist teens in coping with hospitalization.
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