If your child is prepared for the hospitalization and the surgery, the adaptation to the hospital and the healing process are more likely to be faster and easier. You know your child better than any member of the medical staff and only you can comfort him or her in a difficult situation like no
So, what can you do?
Before you start a conversation with your child about the upcoming or current treatment, ask your doctors all you need about your child's condition, the hospital conditions, the stages and a course of treatment. The better you know what is happening in the hospital, the easier it is to
support the child.
It is necessary to make the child know what to expect from the upcoming treatment. Assure him that he won’t stay in the hospital alone. Tell him that you or other family members will be with him all the time, which the treating surgeon is going to allow. In your absence, he will be taken care of by the medical staff, whom he will meet in advance.
Stay with your child as long as possible. He needs you more than ever. Talk, play, maintain body contact like holding hands or hugging.
Encourage your child to ask questions. If you do not know the answer to his question, it is better to admit it honestly and promise to ask the doctor.
The child can keep a "diary of stay in the hospital", where the child could write himself or with your help, describing everything happening around. If the child is still small, he can draw, paint, make easy crafts.
Let your child openly express his feelings. It may be fear, anxiety, anger, or something else. Be patient, do not scold him for his "indecent" behavior. Children are not able to control their emotions, especially in such a difficult situation. Do not be ashamed of your child, if he is naughty or goes off into hysterics. The medical staff has an extensive experience of working with children and understands how hard it is now for your child and you.
If the child is aggressive, find a way to direct his anger into a more peaceful course: play a game of “war”, draw monsters, inflate balloons with "the force of his anger", beat the pillow. You cannot forbid him to feel what he feels, but you can help him express it safely.
Do not say phrases like "Boys do not cry"; or "Good girls do not behave like this"; – they sound repulsive and false. Recognize the right of the child to tears and try to console him.
Whatever procedures are ahead, find the clear words to explain what is happening to your child. Try to maintain the child’s positive mood, but do not lie. For example, never say that it won’t hurt in a situation where the pain is inevitable. It is better to say: "It will be painful, you need to be patient and the pain will pass. You can do this. I'll be with you";. Do not promise a rapid recovery and discharge, if the healing process is going to be long.
Keep calm. Your child unmistakably reads all your emotions and feelings, and they can scare him even more than what is happening in the hospital. To reduce your own anxiety, ask your doctor all the necessary questions, trust him. Your faith will transfer to your child. If you cannot manage your emotions, and you have questions related to your psychological condition, consult a psychologist.
Accept any child's feelings about what is happening. Instead of banning emotions, it is better to try to understand what is behind them and discuss it with your child. Children often do not understand what is happening and why; they recall horrorstories about hospitals or their negative experience of hospitalization. They may be afraid of pain and even the death. As long as you do not talk about it with your child, the fear won’t disappear. If the child still does not speak, use the help of toys and drawing. Tell your child a fairytale about a book character who got into the hospital, what happened to him there, and how he coped with everything.
With a small child, play a “hospital” game. Take a doll or another toy, mime blood testing, injections, the surgery and other medical manipulations, use a toy stethoscope. During the game, explain to the child what is happening and why. After the discharge, do not try to forget about the hospital. If the child returns to the subject, he needs time to mentally digest what happened to him.
Try to take care of yourself. Find time for sleep and a proper nutrition. Engage other family members and friends to help. Your physical and emotional state is passed to your child. If you do not cope with the situation emotionally, or if the mental state of your child worries you, contact a psychologist who works in the unit. You can find it out from your doctor.