If the carefree days of summer get interrupted by an unexpected trip to the hospital, it can be a worrisome experience for both parent and child. However, there are several ways parents can help ease a young person's anxiety of being in the hospital.
First, remember you’re a central part of your child’s healthcare team
. Speak to healthcare staff and ask questions so you and your child have a clear understanding of what is going on. As a parent, it will give you confidence to have this information and help you and the doctor make decisions together.
Second, recognize you know your child the best. You’re in the greatest position to be a support and comfort to your child during an unfamiliar or uncomfortable healthcare experience. Understand that crying can be a healthy way to release the tension from strong emotions. Allow your child to express both positive and negative emotions about what’s happening. If your child seems really upset, it may help to consider what else might be bothering him or her.
Common childhood worries in the hospital include concerns about modesty, not wanting to admit being in pain out of fear of getting a shot, being overwhelmed from the lights, sounds and number of people in the room, embarrassment from being asked about bodily functions, etc.
Third, use the resources available to you at the hospital
. Child life specialists — like the ones available at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and other Intermountain Healthcare hospitals — are professionals with a background in child development who help normalize the hospital setting and ease the stress for children during healthcare events. They can help empower you and your child during medical procedures by providing age-appropriate explanations, offering suggestions on how to ease anxiety, making distraction materials available and rehearsing ideas for effective coping with your child. Knowing a child life specialist can be an advocate for both you and your child throughout your hospital experience can be a relief to you and make a big difference for your child.