Sometimes a trip to the hospital is planned and anticipated but even with planning it can be a scary experience for you and your child. Here are some tips for preparing a child for hospital, based on parents’ experience:
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For a scheduled procedure e.g. tonsils removal
With a planned procedure you have a bit of time to pack some entertainment and make sure you have everything you need.
#1. Be Prepared for Fasting
Read the information provided by the hospital, especially regarding fasting. Often the child will have to fast from the night before, this means when you reach the hospital in the morning you will have a hungry (and cranky child).
#2. Bring a Portable DVD player
Portable DVD players are very handy as long as the DVDs are not about food (Peppa Pig & Family seem to eat in every episode!); the trick is distraction and variety.
#3. Bring Some Toys
Take out new one every so often (there can be a lot of waiting around so you want to pass the time).
#4. Bring a New Colouring Book
A new colouring book with pens or crayons in a tin or pencil case can be a good distraction.
#5. Explain a Little About the Anaesthetics
We called the anaesthetist the “sleepy doctor” and explained to our child that they would go into a room where a doctor would help make them sleepy for the operation.
#6. Bring Bedtime Story Books
Pick a book with a few stories in it to save bringing several books with you
“When our child had her tonsils and adenoids out, the lifesaving book was the Usborne Book of Little Stories that we had brought. The stories are not too long and one of them was even about going to hospital which was great”, Jill
#7. Tuck in a Pack of Playing Cards
Cards are good, e.g. to play Snap or Go Fish, basically keep them occupied and not thinking about food or drinks.
#8. Bring New Pjs to Make Them Feel Special
For the parent who is staying you may not have a bed, so wear a tracksuit that is comfortable to sleep in, sleeping in jeans is not fun.
#9. Don’t Promise Them Food Straight After Recovery
The nursing staff may want to wait to make sure all is ok so avoid promising food straightaway.
#10. Keep it Low Key During Recovery
They may be very disoriented and sore after recovery, so don’t overwhelm them with new toys etc, give them their favourite teddy and let them snuggle until they feel a bit better.
Later on you can give them their new toy for being brave :).
And don’t forget to allow yourself to feel emotional as it can be hard to see your child in this state, that’s ok!
#11. Visit the Playroom if You Can
The Children’s wards often have a playroom, but the times may be limited to week days only, and if your child is in isolation they may not be permitted to enter. The play specialists will bring toys to the children, where they are in for a longer stay.
You might also find Tips for Talking to Kids About Hospital useful
Unplanned Trips to the Hospital
For the unplanned trip to the hospital it is doubly stressful, both parent and child are upset.
#1. Know Where Your Nearest Emergency Clinic is Located
Make sure you know where your nearest emergency clinic is located. For example, in Dublin the VHI Clinic can be used to save a trip to Temple Street (don’t need to be a VHI member).
#2. Arrange for a Backup Person
If you are heading in alone with a sick child, arrange for someone to come in with a change of clothes for parent & child and allow time to arrange childcare if needed for other children.
#3. Try and Keep Calm
Each emergency visit to the hospital is different, but try and keep calm and keep your child reassured that the doctors and nurses will help them.
Over to you now. Do you have tips to share with other parents on preparing a child for hospital? Share them in the comments below.