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Preparing Yourself for Your Child's Stay | Overview

We understand that it’s stressful to have a sick child. In addition to rearranging regular activities, such as work and school, you may experience worry, guilt, sadness, and relief as you prepare for your child’s hospital stay. As you help your child get ready for his hospital experience, it’s just as important to mentally and physically prepare yourself.

Common feelings

Knowing that your child will be admitted to the hospital or will undergo a procedure may bring up a variety of feelings, including anxiety, fear, worry, helplessness, shock, guilt, anger, numbness, relief, and sadness. Children often sense their parents' feelings. Allowing yourself time to experience your own feelings will help you better support your child.

Ask questions

It’s helpful to learn more about the hospital, your child's medical condition, and the treatment. You may want to write down your questions.

Some common questions you may want to ask:

  • What should I tell my child about the procedure or operation?
  • What will happen immediately before the operation or procedure?
  • How long will the procedure or operation take?
  • May I stay with my child during the procedure?
  • Where will I wait during the procedure or operation?
  • Will I be told how my child is doing during the procedure or operation?
  • When will I be able to see my child after the procedure or operation?
  • Will my child be in pain?
  • How long will my child stay in the hospital?
  • How long will it be before my child can go back to school and play?
  • Where can I find more information on my child's condition, operation, or procedure?
  • Remember that you know your child best. Be sure to tell your child's doctors, nurses, and other caregivers about your child's personality and past experiences with health care. For example, if your child is especially afraid of blood tests, staff can often find ways to make the experience less upsetting.

Take care of yourself

  • It's hard to support your child and family if you don’t take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
  • If possible, take turns with another caregiver in sleeping at the hospital with your child; make a schedule before your child is admitted.
  • Take breaks from your child's room. For example, take a walk or go for a cup of coffee. Ask the Child Life specialist if a volunteer could stay with your child while you take a break.
  • Talk with friends and family about your worries and concerns.
  • Learn deep breathing and relaxation exercises. Programs about this are shown on Channel 28, the hospital's Education and Relaxation channel.
  • Visit the Hale Family Center for Families or the Resource Room on your floor and ask about wellness activities for caregivers. Massage, Reiki, gentle yoga, meditation, and Zumba are just a few options available throughout the hospital.
  • Exercise regularly. Stop by the Hale Family Center for Families, or ask your social worker or Child Life specialist about using the gym near the hospital.
  • Ask about a parent coffee hour on your child's unit; ask about support groups.
  • Keep a journal about your hospital experiences.
  • Plan to see and spend time with your other children.
  • If you and your child's other parent are not together but are both part of your child's life, take time to decide who will be with your child at different times during the hospitalization or procedure. Let your child know the plan.

Special considerations

If you have a restraining order against your child's other parent, bring a copy of it with you. Show it to the social worker at the hospital.

If you are worried about domestic violence issues, call the AWAKE (Advocacy for Women and Kids in Emergencies) Program or speak with a nurse or social worker.