Preparing for and talking to your child
about their stay in hospital
A guide for parents and carers from our psychology, play therapy and nurse specialist team to help reduce anxiety.
Before your child comes in for an operation or procedure there are some things you may want to consider when talking to them about their visit:
Time to talk
When you have explained what will be happening, ask your child some questions so that you know they have understood what you have told them. There may be some anxiety the first time or first few times you talk to your child about hospital.
Anxiety makes it difficult to retain information so expect to repeat what you have said. It may help to jointly write down or draw what you have talked about.
Hospital related toys and books
There are many hospital related toys and books that you may want to use with your child before their appointment, so that hospitals and doctors do not seem quite so scary.
Please ask our play specialists about popular toys and books that are currently available.
Encouraging your child to play with hospital related toys and activities once they are there; it is also a good way of taking their mind off things and helps them to relax into their surroundings.
Once you have spoken to your child about the procedure, give them permission to ask you questions at any time following this. Keeping communication open can really help to manage anxiety.
Ways to support and comfort your child
A range of emotions are normal and understandable
Our whole team are here to support you and your child. If you would like additional support in preparing your child for an admission, please contact the cardiac nurse specialist team to discuss a referral to the play specialist and/or the child psychology team.
Talking about procedures, blood tests and other investigations which may be painful or uncomfortable
Tell your child about how he or she will/may feel before, during and after their procedure. For example, if your child is having a general anaesthetic, you may to want to explain to your child that they will not see, hear or feel anything during the operation as they will be asleep. Try and avoid the phrase ‘put to sleep’ when explaining this.
It is important to mention any scars they may have after their procedure and if any of the tests may hurt.
Try not to make any promises you can’t keep, for example, saying that things won’t hurt or that your child won’t have any blood tests. Use words your child will understand such as ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘scratch’.
Consider and discuss with your child’s wishes during procedures, for example before taking a blood test or having a cannula, you may want to discuss:
- Do they want to look or look away?
- Would they like to sit on your lap or next to you?
- Would they like to see the blood test materials involved?
- Would they like to say ‘ready’?
Looking after you too
A hospital visit for your child also means a hospital visit for you as parents or caregivers and therefore it may be associated with a mixture of emotions for you too.
Take some time to think about what will help look after you during the hospital visit. This may include:
- simple relaxation strategies to use during your child’s procedure
- having a supportive family member or friend you can call whilst your child is having a procedure
- eating, drinking and getting some daylight and fresh air.
Our psychology team are available to support your when you are in hospital. Please let the nurse specialists or the nurse looking after your child know if you would like to access the service.