Hospital stays can bring added stress and anxiety to most of the parents, especially when it is concerning your children. In addition, when it comes to the question of leaving your child or the job even if it is for a temporary period can heighten the tensions. It will be crucial points of decision and brings some moments of crisis when it occurs as an unplanned event, and you are the only earning member in the family.
Hospital stay of one member will affect the whole family, especially, when it involves a dependent one like our children. However, this stress can be eased and we could make the stay as happy as possible through some techniques.
Some of the important aspects to bear in mind when we deal with preparation of a child’s stay in hospital are:
Know your child: Parents are the best predictors of child’s behavior and the child himself. What environment can make the child anxious and what not will be known only to the parents. Therefore, try to comfort your child and when there are any special procedures to be done, make yourself available as much as possible.
Remember that many children will not express their anxiety outwardly. It does not mean that they do not have fears of hospitalization.
Give prior information: But this depends on child’s age, level of understanding and comprehension, whether the illness occurred unexpectedly or as planned.
Explanation in simple, but in a truthful way is very important. A child is very imaginative. Do not give more than what he asks. Telling a pre-schooler (3-5 year old), “Oh, I would like you to tell me what we are going to see in the hospital today” will make you know what is in your child’s mind about the hospitalization. Encourage expressions.
Child’s safety: Tell him what to know about safety in the hospital and what measures they will take to ensure safety of the child. Tell the options for calling some one, using a bell or call button, usage of side rails if the child is a bit grown up. Or else, if you cannot be available around, make a caregiver/ mother surrogate to take of your child.
Involve the child in his care: One way to promote independence and autonomy in the child and reduce the stress is involving the child in his stay in hospital. Children like to do things for themselves. Ask him to keep his dresses, toys, writing books, pencils, drawing books, slippers and other favorite items in the bag so that he feels homely once he is in the hospital.
If it is an adolescent, may be their study items, music, games, storybooks etc can be asked to keep by themselves.
Visit the hospital prior to hospitalization with the child: This is possible if the stay is planned, like an elective surgery. Try to introduce him to the caregivers, and have a talk with him so that he is familiarized with the atmosphere and stay. Orient him to the various facilities/ amenities of the hospital. Try to introduce him to peers if possible, to alleviate fears.
Do not convey your fears to him: Children are able to pick up parents emotions very easily and it will reflect on their outlook and expressions. Therefore, remember to convey only positive feelings and confidence to add up strength in your child. They will be able to tolerate the pains and separation better if you do that.
Tell him how he will be back after hospitalization: Some children think that they are going to be separated forever, and this may add on to their anxiety. Tell him the outcome of hospitalization and the way he will look like, especially if the child is going to have a surgery, since they fear about mutilation or their body image.
Explain that he can play and do his routine activities in the hospital, too: Creating a friendly environment and creating social interactions with their peer groups is helpful in making the hospital stay a success.
Prepare child for the absence in school: Having contacts with their classmates, writing notes during the period of absenteeism (if the physical condition permits) can help to cope up with the studies.
Thus, the hospital stay of your child can be made as much pleasant and comfortable as possible, and for that, prior preparation and planning is very essential.