Preparing Your Child For Hospital
Preparing Your Child For Hospital
You will feel more at ease if you are well informed about your child's hospital visit and have support arranged for you and your whānau (family).
Key points about preparing your child for hospital
- it is important to give tamariki (children) information simply and truthfully, in words they understand
- tell them that they will be going to hospital and what they may expect to happen there
- a prepared child will find it easier to cope with their hospital experience
What if I am worried or anxious about my child's hospital visit?
It is important to give tamariki information simply and truthfully, in words they understand.
These are normal and natural feelings. But, with adequate preparation, a stay in hospital can be a positive experience. You will feel more at ease if you are well informed and have support arranged for you and your whānau. A relative or family friend may be able to help with visiting or care of any other tamariki you have.
What should I tell my child about their hospital visit?
It is important to give tamariki information simply and truthfully, in words they understand. Tell them that they will be going to hospital and what they may expect to happen there.
Reassure your child that someone can stay with them in hospital.
A prepared child will find it easier to cope with their hospital experience.
What should I find out before my child's hospital visit?
Before your child's hospital stay, find out as much as possible about what will happen, such as:
- how long will your child need to stay?
- can you be present during procedures such as x-rays and scans?
- can brothers and sisters visit at any time?
- what facilities are there for you to stay with your child?
- if your child needs an anaesthetic, can you be with them when the anaesthetic is given and in the recovery room afterwards?
- if your child has special needs, is the hospital aware of these and what support is available?
- is there a pre-admission or play preparation programme to help tamariki understand what will happen?
What should I bring for my child's hospital visit?
It can be a good idea to involve your child in packing a bag to take to hospital, if possible. Tamariki can usually wear their own clothes or nightwear if they wish, so pack these.
Toys and books
Pack something familiar and comforting, such as a cuddly, a favourite toy or game or pictures of family. You can pack some activities such as books or colouring in case they feel up to it.
If your child has special needs, you will need to bring any mobility aids and any other resources that they normally need or use. Bring the car seat, if applicable, for when your child leaves the hospital.
Your own bag
Don't forget to pack a bag for yourself or the person who will stay with your child. Bring clothing and something to occupy you when needed such as a book. It may be helpful to have money on hand for snacks.
How can play help my child in hospital?
Play is familiar and reassuring. It's how tamariki make sense of the world around them. In hospital, it helps tamariki to learn and develop and to feel less anxious. It also helps them to express their feelings, understand what is happening and cope with treatment.
Many hospitals have play specialists who can suggest how best to prepare your child.
How can I make a hospital visit easier for my child?
It is important to be with your child as much as you can so that they continue to feel loved and safe. Younger tamariki especially will cope with the hospital experience best if a parent or other trusted person stays with them.
If you have to leave, tell your child that you are going, and leave confidently, even if this causes distress. Make sure your child’s nurse knows you are leaving and when you will be back.
Talk to your child about timelines that make sense to them. For example, tell them you'll be back after lunch or as long as it takes to watch a favourite movie.
What can I expect once my child is home again after their hospital visit?
When tamariki go home, it is common for them and their brothers and sisters to need extra love, patience and attention until they feel secure again.
It is likely that your child's behaviour may change for a time. They may worry more about things in general, particularly their health or minor injuries. They may be more 'clingy' or babyish. Eating and sleeping habits may change. They may be fearful in situations that remind them of hospital or of illness. All of these are very common reactions and should pass in time.
Opportunities to share their feelings, to talk about their experience if they want to, and to play 'hospitals' will help. Older tamariki may also like to draw pictures or make a book about their hospital stay.
What should I do if I am worried about my child after their hospital visit?
If you are worried or if your child's changed behaviour continues beyond a few weeks, you could contact:
This page last reviewed 15 January 2024.
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