As a parent, handing over your child to someone else to look after can be a harrowing experience at the best of times. But when your little ones are ill and need to be in a hospital, it can be incredibly concerning and stressful.
Even though that deep down you know they are in the right place, you don’t feel like you are in control, and that everything is out of your hands. However, as every doctor will tell you, this is far from true – and there is still a lot you can do.
Here’s how you can help your kids while they are in the hospital, and also cope with your feelings at the same time.
It can be incredibly difficult to be positive when you child suffers from a sudden illness or needs an operation. But you need to don that stiff upper lip, even if it’s only for their benefit. If you show fear, sadness, and concern, your child will pick up on it, and you will encourage them to feel the same. The less stress your child is under at the point of entry to the hospital, the better their recovery will be.
Hospitals are generous regarding parents staying with their children. In some cases, you may get a private room; in others, you might have to take advantage of the healthcare furniture, seats, and – maybe – a spare bed. For more severe conditions, some hospitals have houses, cottages or apartments that parents and family can stay in if they live a distance away.
It’s important to talk to your child about what is happening – they are far more likely to develop an understanding of what is going on through you rather than a medical professional they have never met. Try and keep things as simple as possible, and don’t be afraid to discuss fears and anxieties. Underline the fact that they are in the best place possible, and avoid being dishonest. It’s also OK to not have an answer if you don’t have one – perhaps you could bring it up with the doctor together later on?
Encourage friendly faces and other family members to visit your child in a hospital. When children see people they know, it can be incredibly reassuring, especially when they are in unfamiliar surroundings that can seem strange and overwhelming. It’s important to keep the world your child knows connected to their current predicament – even phone calls and video calls can help.
Everyday objects from home can help children feel more comfortable with their environment. It’s also OK to spoil your child a little – let them use of your iPad, for example – and turn the experience into a special treat and adventure rather than a scary and distressing occurrence.
Finally, just because your child is ill doesn’t mean they won’t want to play. It will help you both while away the time, and children’s wards in hospitals are often full of books, fun games, and activities for the kids to do. Speak to the nurses about getting your kids involved with activities, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.