Infant/Todder: (Up to 3 Years)
- Keeping normal routines and continuing to be involved in playtime, bath time and other daily activities provides your child with a sense of normalcy.
- This age group benefits from physical comfort such as holding and cuddling. Toddlers may also benefit from preparation that is half a day or one day before the appointment.
Preschooler: (3-5 Years)
- This age typically fears separation from family, so tell your child:
- When you are going to leave him or her
- Where you are going
- When you will get back
- Children in this age group experience "magical thinking" and often create their own reasons for going to the hospital. You can help by being honest and giving simple answers and explanations.
- This age group benefits most from preparation a few days in advance.
School-Age Child: (6-11 Years)
- This age group tends to fear anesthesia. Assure your child that this is a special "sleepy medicine" that helps their bodies go to sleep so that they do not feel anything. When surgery is finished, your child will be given special medicine to help him or her wake up.
- Children in this age group are more aware of their bodies and how procedures or surgeries can affect them. They benefit most from detailed preparations that is given at least a week before the appointment so that they can ask questions and process the information.
Teenager: (12-17 Years)
- Encourage your teen to bring their own clothes and activities to help them feel more comfortable during their stay.
- Physical appearance and socialization are important to this age group. Remember to respect their privacy and encourage support from their peer group.
- This age group benefits most by being involved in their care, so encourage them to:
- Ask their doctor/nurse questions
- Write down things they want to ask or may forget
- Express their feelings/concerns
- Participate in discussions
Important for All Ages:
- Bringing your child's favorite comfort item (stuffed animal, blanket, toy, pacifier, movie, etc.) will offer security while in an unfamiliar place.
- Being honest with your child about what will happen during his or her visit/stay helps him or her gain a sense of trust. If something is going to be painful, tell your child the truth, but redirect his or her attention to the positive.
- Example: Before having a shot, explain that "it may hurt, but just for a second, and Mom will be with you the whole time."
- Listening to their questions, feelings and concerns can offer you insight into their understanding and fears and also shows them that you care.
- Children learn best through their senses and will want to know how things taste, sound, smell, feel and look.
- Since children learn through play, it is often helpful for them to see a demonstration on a stuffed animal of what a doctor may do.
- A medical play kit is helpful for the child to touch and play with to help them understand what will happen.
- Younger children are often more worried about separation form home and family, whereas older children may be more concerned about details of procedures.
- Allow your child choices when possible to help him or her have some control over their circumstances and be involved in their doctor or hospital visit.