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 top tips for preparing a child for hospital, shared by other parents.
The key is making your child as comfortable as possible and finding something to reduce your child’s stress and anxiety, because new environments will bring lots of new sights, smells and experiences.
Preparing Your Child for Hospital for a Scheduled Procedure
With a planned procedure (e.g. tonsils removed) 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 Something to Watch
Something to watch stuff on is very handy. It used to be portable DVD players but now it’s tablets or phones. Just make sure the programmes or movies they watch are not about food (Peppa Pig & Family seem to eat in every episode!); the trick is distraction and variety.
#3. Bring Some Toys
Bring some new toys and games and take out new one every so often. There can be a lot of waiting around so you want to pass the time.
Also, make sure you have their favourite cuddly toy or blankie with you.
#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. 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.
#6. Bring New Pjs to Make Them Feel Special
Have some new pyjamas for your child for the experience.
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.
#7. 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
#8. 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.
#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
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.
Preparing for Unplanned Trips to the Hospital
For the unplanned trip to the hospital it is doubly stressful, both parent and child are upset.
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 (you don’t need to be a VHI member).
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.
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.