Talking to your child

The following tips may help you prepare your child's hospital stay.

Infants (4 weeks to 1 year)

  • Learn about your child's illness and how it will be treated.
  • Talk with hospital staff about your own feelings and hospital experiences.
  • Try to spend as much time as possible in the hospital caring for your infant.
  • Bring familiar items (music, special toys or a blanket) to the hospital.

Toddlers (1 - 2 years)

  • Since you know your child best, trust yourself about how much information to share.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child's hospital stay.
  • Toddlers should be prepared one to two days before they come to the hospital.
  • Books about the hospital can be helpful when talking with your toddler.
  • Medical kits and playing with toddlers can help you learn how much they understand.
  • Give toddlers simple explanations to help clear up any misconceptions they have.
  • Reassure toddlers that going to the hospital is not a punishment.

Preschool (3 - 5 years)

  • Prepare preschool-age children three to five days before their hospital stays. Reading books about the hospital is a good way to prepare children for their hospital stay.
  • Ask your child what he or she thinks the hospital is and what will happen there. This will help you understand what he or she knows.
  • Playing with medical equipment can help children become comfortable with what they see.

School-age (6 - 12 years)

  • Give children specific information about what will be happening.
  • Ask what they understand and help clear up any misconceptions.
  • School-age children can be prepared up to two weeks before their hospital stay.
  • Include children in conversations with medical staff. Otherwise, they may not understand what you're talking about and be scared about what they're hearing.

Teens (13 - 18 years)

  • Include teens in conversations and decision-making.
  • Use correct terms and provide honest information.
  • Encourage your teen to ask questions.
  • Offer teens books or pamphlets that talk about their condition or procedures.
  • Give teens the chance to talk to medical staff without you in the room. They may have questions they are embarrassed to ask in front of you.