Preparing your child for going into hospital
Next week, my two-and-a-half year old daughter is going into hospital to have a minor procedure. Because she's so young, I spoke to a friend who works as a Hospital Play Specialist about the best way to prepare her for going into hospital and I thought I'd share her advice with you.
Here are her top 8 tips for how to deal with what can be a strange and unnerving experience for children and parents:
1. It's important not to hide what's going on. About a week before the operation, tell your child what's going to happen but don't go into much detail. It's enough to say ?Next Monday, we're going to get up really early and go to the hospital where we'll meet some doctors and nurses?.
2. A few days before the procedure, give your child a new pair of pyjamas or a new teddy - it doesn't matter what as long as it is something special for them to take with them for their visit.
3. Up to a week before, at bedtime, read them a book where the character goes to hospital. You could try I don't want to go to hospital (Tony Ross), Topsy and Tim go to Hospital (Jean and Gareth Adamson) or Peppa Pig Goes to Hospital (Ladybird).
4. Set up a toy hospital at home where you role-play doctors and nurses and play at treating your child's teddy bears and dolls and making them better.
5. Most children's cartoons have hospital episodes and, if you can find one, let your child watch it because knowing their favourite character has been to hospital too will be comforting.
6. Let your child pack their hospital bag and include books, sticker books, colouring books and crayons to keep them entertained. Make sure that, if they have a particular toy or blanket that they love, they take that with them too.
7. If your child is having a general anaesthetic, just before the procedure, explain that when they wake up, you won't be there straight away but, as soon as they do wake up, you'll be on your way to see them.
8. Hospitals often make people anxious and, as a parent, you will be worried too. Try not to let any anxiety show to your child as they can be very sensitive to your mood. Take deep breaths and stay calm and positive whenever you are with your child.
For a child going into hospital, there'll be new sights, sounds and smells, a different routine and lots of new people to meet - not to mention all sorts of new physical sensations - some of them a bit painful. Try to follow these tips, help your child feel safe and protected and it can be a positive learning experience for your child rather than a scary one.