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Give Yourself More Control During Your Child’s Hospital Stay

Originally published on November 10, 2009
Most recently updated on April 14, 2015

There are many steps that you can take to make your child's hospital stay better for all of you. Here is a list of things you can do that will help empower you and your child.

  • Ask the facility for unrestricted visiting hours for parents.

  • Find out what accommodations the hospital provides for parents or caregivers staying overnight. Do they provide recliner chair-beds, toiletries, bathing facilities, laundry facilities, meals, and available refrigerator space?

  • Take a proactive role in your child’s care by assisting with self-care, such as toileting, bathing, and eating. However, be aware that sometimes it may be best for you to step aside and let the nurse take over.

  • Request that painful procedures be done in the treatment room. Children need to have places where they feel safe, so pain should not be a part of their experience in their room or in the playroom.

  • Take advantage of times when you can take a break, because both your mental health and your physical health are very important to your child’s care. Having a few friends and family members on call whom your child knows and feels comfortable with and whom you trust can be an important support, especially during extended hospital stays.

  • Access hospital services that help children with adjusting to the hospital environment, their illness, and separation from their usual daily routines. Use the services of child life specialists and visit the playroom so your child can socialize with peers and be a kid. Play can help a child be less fearful and anxious, which makes coping with their own feelings about medical procedures, hospital equipment, and personnel easier.

  • Many hospitals now provide complimentary medicine services such as yoga, massage therapy, mediation/guided imagery, music therapy, and Reiki, which promote wellness and relaxation. Ask your child’s nurse whether these services are available at your hospital.

  • If your child is confined to bed, arrange for a child life specialist from the playroom to visit and bring activities to the bedside. Volunteers may also be available for reading, playing, or just for company. Hospital-based teachers are available to help your child with schoolwork during extended hospital stays.

  • Check to see if there’s a refrigerator in which you can store some of your child’s favorite foods and snacks. Ask if your child can go to the cafeteria and choose his or her own meals.

  • Try to arrange for your child to wear his or her own clothes as much as possible. Clearly label belongings with your child’s last name, using permanent ink. Ask staff members if there is a washer and dryer available for your use.

  • Try to arrange for treatments and procedures to be scheduled so your child has time to rest and be refreshed before visitors are expected.

  • Inform visitors about the best time of day to visit. Some children feel better in the morning; others, in the afternoon.

  • Try to keep your child’s daily routine as consistent as possible during the hospital stay. This can prove extremely reassuring to everyone and is particularly important for the youngest patients.

  • If your child has a radio, iPod, smartphone, tablet or laptop computer, bring it to the hospital (with earphones). In addition, ask the social worker what items are available from the hospital for your child’s use. Many institutions have portable stereos and CD players as well as DVDs and video games for patient use. Favorite movies, games, and music can be comforting. Streaming websites like Netflix and Hulu are also great for finding movies and TV shows without having to carry extra DVDs and equipment with you.

  • Bring things from home to make the hospital room more like your child’s own room: stuffed animals, books, a blanket or comforter, family photos, posters, and so on. Items from home can be very comforting and make the hospital room more personal and cozy.

  • Find out if there’s a children’s library or reading room in the hospital.



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