Good and Bad Ways to talk to your child when having procedures done in hospital.
Preparation is really important when coming into hospital as it can really help to reduce stress and anxiety for your child and yourselves as parents. Preparation can involve many different things but mainly allows your child to have an understanding of hospital before they come here.
The best way to explore hospital with your child is through play. Hospital play can be introduced slowly and become a regular theme of play in the lead up to admission.
Some fun forms of hospital play could be…
Playing with doctors sets
Playing with things at home e.g. plasters, bandages, thermometer
Role-playing doctor and patient
Playmobil or hospital sets with figures and an ambulance
Cbeebies ‘Get Well Soon Hospital’ programmes
Stories with hospitals in them e.g. ‘Going to the hospital’, ‘Peppa Pig goes to hospital’ ‘Topsy and Tim go to the hospital’
Use of phone/iPad apps such as ‘i Get….Going to the Hospital’
Online resources, e.g. The Sammy has a Heart Operation on the British Heart Foundation Website (www.bhf.org.uk)
All of these types of play allow your child to gain understanding of equipment and procedures in a fun way. It can allow them to feel more in control and this can lead to reduced stress and anxiety.
Answer any questions that your child may have as openly and honestly as you can (appropriately for their age), always reminding them that the doctors are going to try and make their heart better and that they are there to help them.
One of the best ways to make sure your child is prepared is to make sure you are prepared and have an understanding about your child’s condition, the procedure and what will happen when your child comes into hospital. You can gain this information by asking as many questions as you like to your surgeon when you are in clinic or by calling the cardiac nurse specialists or visiting the support pages of this website.
Make sure you have time planned off work and have made travel arrangements. Having these sorts of things arranged can make the whole day run a lot more smoothly and allow you to concentrate on helping your child.
It may be helpful to contact other parents who have been through a similar procedure with a child of a similar age. You can do this through many different charities and social media. This may help you learn when the most demanding times may be and help you plan for them.
www.littlehearts.org have a discussion board and a parent matching programme to match you with parents in a similar position to your own for support and advice.
Preparing siblings and the rest of the family
If your child has siblings then it is likely that they will also have questions. Answer them as honestly and openly as you can. It may be helpful to let school know what is going on as siblings can experience stress as well and school may be able to offer extra support if it is needed.
Make sure siblings know what to expect when they visit their brother or sister in hospital. Let them know that their sibling may be very tired or may not look like they normally do.
Often, especially if you have a large family, everyone will want to know what is going on and how your child and you are doing. It can be frustrating having to constantly repeat yourself. It can be helpful to pick one or two trusted close family members to keep updated and ask them if it can be their job to pass on the information to whoever else you would like it passed to.
The day before admission
Allowing your child to be involved in planning and packing for hospital can really help make the whole experience more fun and engaging for them rather than scary.
Help your child pack a small bag that they can carry and pack themselves with their favourite toy, favourite blanket and some DVDs. Letting them pack their own mini bag of their favourite things will make them feel involved and more at home in the hospital.
You should also pack another bag with anything else you will need. Bring a variation of toys, as even their favourite toys may get boring after a few days. It is also good to bring changes of comfortable clothes as well as food and drink. (Make sure you label everything with your name.)
On the day of surgery your child will not be allowed to eat or drink, this can be a difficult time. You may want to eat and drink away from your child and bring electronic games or DVDs which do not reference food, to keep your child distracted.
Planning for the day of admission
It is important to be prepared in case admission is delayed, e.g. due to a bed not being ready. Have a plan for a family day together (without buying tickets for anything) just in case things are held up