How to Prepare Your Child for a Hospital Visit
Hospitals can be a daunting place for any child, regardless of their age and understanding of the subject. If you know your child has an appointment or hospital stay planned soon, preparing them can help to ease anxieties for the both of you. Here is how you can prepare your child for a hospital visit.
Be Open and Honest
Children need honesty, and hiding them from what is to come will only make the experience harder for you both, and your child will lose trust in you. Explain what procedure or appointment they are going in for and what is going to happen when they arrive. If they are going for a blood test, you can find videos online to help you explain it in a format they understand. Let them know it is okay to be scared because they haven’t had it done before, but you will be right by their side the whole time, and it takes just a minute or two to be done.
Use Stories and Playing
Children understand more information through the act of playing or through a story. Exactly when to tell them solely depends on their age. For younger children such as toddlers, letting them know the day before is enough, as they don’t understand the concept of time, and telling them too early will confuse them. Those in pre-school should be prepared a week before, so they have enough time to make sense of everything in their head. Older children can be given as much time as needed.
At bedtime, tell them a story about a hospital visit, making it closely linked to what may happen on the day for your child. You can also choose to play doctors and nurses with your child and take their vital signs or pretend to draw blood. Allowing them to take turns doing this will make the procedure feel normal for them.If your child has autism, social stories are a fantastic way to explain a hospital visit in a way they will understand. As autistic children enjoy routine, social stories for autism allow your child to follow each step of the process, so they can feel in control of the situation. Check out social stories for kids from Autism Parenting Magazine, and also see how you can create your own for a hospital visit.
Allow Them to Ask Questions
Let your child know it is okay to ask questions if they think of anything else. The more they talk about the day and the more they understand, the fewer fears they will have. It is a good idea to let your child know that healthcare professionals will probably wear gloves and aprons, as sometimes this can scare children. When it comes to the actual hospital visit, letting them know they can ask questions to the nurses and doctors will also make them feel at ease.
Reward Them for Good Behavior
Children love rewards, and so letting them know their hospital visit will be followed by a reward will help them to focus on the reward afterward, rather than what may be happening at the hospital. For some children, no amount of explaining will help them to not be worried, so trying to distract their attention to something positive is a good way to counteract this. Let them know that once the hospital visit is done, they can go to their favorite play area, go for a meal at their favorite restaurant, or get a new toy.
Make the Experience a Positive One
Going to the hospital may not seem like a fun experience, but for children, there are plenty of ways to put a positive spin on it. The children’s hospital should be full of toys to play with, and it is a great way to make friends. Your child can also tell all their peers about their hospital experience afterward. Try to avoid the word “brave”, as it can be linked to fear and show that there is something to be scared of.
Talk to the Hospital
Finally, if your child has any additional needs such as a hearing impairment, learning disabilities or autism, it is best to let the hospital know in advance. This way, the nurses and doctors looking after your child will be aware that they must take extra time and care when dealing with your child.
You can also inform them of your child’s likes and dislikes, which may help them find some common ground with your child when first meeting. Pediatric staff are trained to work with children of all ages and disabilities, so while taking them to hospital can be nerve-wracking for both you and your child, remember that they have experience and will support you every step of the way.
One bad hospital experience can damage how your child views hospitals and this fear can last for years. Making your child aware of their hospital visit can make the day easier for everyone involved.