Unfortunately, for kids with special needs and their parents, trips to the hospital are as routine as going to school or work. No matter how frequent the trip, however, hospital visits can still be daunting to your child.
I know mine still runs from anyone dressed in scrubs, even when we're at the market or eating in a restaurant. Thankfully, child life specialists around the world have developed many different ways to make trips to the hospital less scary for our kids, and today, we are sharing a few of those tips with you.
If this is your child's first stay in the hospital, or at the first stay they'll remember, ask someone on staff at the hospital if it would be okay to bring your child to visit. Most hospitals are okay with this, and if you call ahead, you might be paired up with a child life specialist or assistant employed with the hospital who can take you and your child on a guided tour, so to speak, of where your child will be staying and the different rooms he or she might have to visit. They will most likely start off the visit by showing your child the playroom, as well as some of the fun activities that are planned for the children each day.
Visiting also gives your child a chance to see some of the equipment that might be used for their treatment. While some of that equipment certainly looks a little scary, becoming familiar with it helps to relieve anxiety.
Invest in a toy doctor kit, then allow your child to do fun things with the different tools inside, like squirting water paint out of the toy syringes onto canvas or paper. Activities like this make scary tools like syringes seem less frightening when you show your child how they can be used for fun.
Some children's hospitals have also created these great dolls called shadow buddies, which are typically muslin dolls designed with some type of disease or illness. For instance, a diabetic shadow buddy comes with it's own insulin pack and diabetic friendly snacks. Shadow buddies help our kids feel less alone with their illness or special need, and the dolls are great to snuggle with in the hospital bed.
I can't stress enough how important and useful books are to all children's growth and development. Books serve as more than just entertainment, they also inform. There a plethora of children's books out there written especially about hospitals and what it's like to stay in one. Visit your local bookstore and pick up a couple of these stories. Each time your child becomes afraid of their upcoming trip to the hospital, pull out one of these books and read it to them.
Remember, be completely honest with your child about everything that's going to happen during their hospital stay. As much as we would love to keep our kids from all the scary things in the world, being honest about those scary things helps them get over their fears.
Does your child travel to school using school transport?