How to prepare your child for a stay at the hospital

How to prepare your child for a stay at the hospital

By Audrey Fuhrer
Certified Child Life Specialist

We all know that Swedish provides top-notch pediatric services for the emergent needs of children and their families.  You may be surprised to find out that many children come to Swedish for a planned inpatient stay as well.  There can be various reasons why a child and their family might be anticipating a hospital stay.  Some examples may include having a surgical procedure that requires them to be monitored for a set period of time afterward, neurological video monitoring, or medical preparations for a procedure the following day.

Regardless of what service your child will be receiving at the hospital, there are ways in which you can better prepare them and yourself for what to expect during your stay.

At Swedish, Child Life Specialists help children and families cope with the hospital process.  Child Life Specialists are available to help educate and prepare children and families prior to surgery and/or an inpatient stay.  Some tips on how to prepare your child for an inpatient stay include:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider to educate yourself about the admission process and what to expect once you arrive for your overnight stay. 
  • Talk to your child in advance about their surgery/inpatient stay in an honest, matter-of-fact manner.  Younger children need to start hearing about their upcoming surgery/admission 2-3 days prior to their visit.  School age and teenage children can handle talking about it a few weeks in advance.  Using books and similar resources can be helpful in talking to your child about their hospital stay.
  • Offer children some control wherever possible.  Have your child pick a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket to bring with them to the hospital.  Older children can help pack their overnight bag and bring favorite activities to occupy their time during their stay.  Certified Child Life Specialists are available to provide education and support during the admission process and subsequent inpatient stay.  All pediatric units provide toys, movies, arts and crafts, and games to promote normalization of the hospital environment.
  • Keep a calm and positive attitude when speaking to your child about their hospital stay, as well as on the day of their admission.  Children often pick up emotional cues from their parents and can sense stress and anxiety.  Help your child cope positively by remaining calm and confident.
  • Child Life Services at Swedish offer pre-operative and inpatient unit tours to help patients and families become acquainted with the surgery center and hospital environment.  Please contact Child Life at 206-386-6283 to schedule your tour or discuss the surgery/admission process to help you and your child prepare for your visit to Swedish.
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