An injury or diagnosis that requires a hospital stay for a child is a stressful and disturbing experience for the entire family. Finding ways to cope when your child is hospitalized will make you a better advocate for your child and help you quell your child’s anxiety.
Know What’s Coming
When you learn that your child must stay in the hospital, ask lots of questions about why and what will happen. Be assertive (not aggressive!) in getting answers about the planned course of treatment, how long your child will likely stay there, and the specifics of medications and their possible side effects.
Ask what to watch for when you sit with your child and get to know the hospital’s routine, such as what time doctors typically do their “rounds” and when the nursing staff changes shifts. Be cordial and introduce yourself to each new nurse, phlebotomy technician, and transport staff person you meet.
Keep a Running List of Questions
Questions and concerns will occur to you throughout your child’s hospital stay. Keep a small notebook with you so that you can write them down. You may get only 10 minutes a day with your child’s doctor, so to make that time efficient, you must have questions that concern you the most prepared.
Nurses can often answer questions about treatment and why they’re doing what they’re doing, but the supervising doctor is responsible for your child’s care and should provide the answers you want.
Remember That Your Mood Affects Your Child
Even if you’re a jumble of emotions internally, you must project a calm and upbeat demeanor to your child. Your mood and how you convey it both verbally and non-verbally sends a “vibe” to your child that may affect their level of pain and the speed of their recovery.
Coping with your child’s hospitalization requires support. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Friends and family will be happy to pitch in to care for your other kids when you must stay overnight, even for days on end. They can serve as the contact point for updates when concerned friends are asking what they can do to help and how your child is doing. That way, you can concentrate on being there for your child instead of answering calls or responding to texts.
Use Hospital Resources
Many hospitals now have resources for families who want to stay close to their children while they’re hospitalized. Some offer family lounges that include showers and fitness equipment. Some hospitals have sensory rooms designed to soothe anxious or autistic children, but parents can use them to calm themselves, too. Nurses will do their best to find you pillows and blankets if you want to stay with your child in their room overnight. Also, ask about food deliveries.
Medical staff tends to focus on the patient, so don’t hesitate to speak up and ask for help to make yourself more comfortable while you’re there to support your child.