Children in health care

Going to hospital can be a very traumatic experience for any child. Except for being sick or in pain, the hospital is an unfamiliar place which can be frightening and where the child might feel lonely. Children often feel they have little control over their bodies and the situation and experience a lack of privacy.

Children’s fears and worries might include the following:

  • “I don’t want to be here! I want to go home.”
  • “I am scared.”
  • “Will I recover? What will happen if I don’t?”
  • “I am responsible for disrupting our normal family life by being sick.”
  • “Will mom or dad be able to pay all the medical bills?”
  • “Will I be able to catch up with my schoolwork?”

Preparing a child for hospitalisation might reduce the trauma. Here are a few tips:

  • Explain step by step what is going to happen – if you are not sure, ask the hospital staff to assist you.
  • Read a children’s book which explains the medical procedures on a child’s level.
  • Encourage medical play with medical toys. Medical play has a lot of benefits for the child in health care as well as the siblings:

     => It gives the child a sense of control when he/she pretends to be the doctor or nurse;

     => It makes it easier for the child to understand medical procedures;

     => It is a medium for the child to communicate fears, emotions and questions;

     => It makes it easier for the parent or medical professional to explain procedures;

     => It is fun!
  • Let your child choose which toy/s he/she wants to take to the hospital. Rather let the child take toys he/she is fond of than buying new ones.
  • Always be honest.
  • Never threaten a child with a doctor or injection when he/she misbehaves.

It is normal for children to experience behavioural changes during or after hospitalisation. These might include separation anxiety, nightmares and sleeping- or eating problems. If the child’s behaviour persists, rather seek professional help to help the child deal with the trauma.

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