For some children with special needs, preparing for a sleepover at granny’s house can be complex enough, so getting ready for hospital is another thing altogether.

Hospital can be scary, there’s a lot going on in there and the place smells weird and strangers come and go all day. You don’t have your own bed or the food you like, and if you’re in there it probably means you were already feeling pretty bad in the first place.

But sometimes it’s just unavoidable. The hospital is where they fix bits of you that are broken or fall off or don’t behave the way you should, sometimes you just have to go.

Read all about it

Most hospitals have decent websites these days with a lot of information about how to prepare for your visit. If they don’t, you can ask for it or get your clinician to get it for you.

It’s in the hospital’s best interest that you and your whole family are as prepared as possible, so they’ll be happy to help. Most of them will probably send you out the information anyway. Make yourself a coffee and go through it in detail.

Family participation

Get everyone involved in hospital role-play games. Let the whole family take turns being patient, doctor, nurse, and visitor and make it feel familiar and safe. This will make the whole experience easier for your child to understand, reassures them they’re never alone and (most importantly) it’s really good fun!

Talk it out

Nobody knows your child better than you – what they know about their condition, how they understand about the world around them and how they respond in strange situations. But it can be hard to explain what’s going to happen during an operation or procedure.

The best advice we can give is to make sure you give them some sort of explanation. Nothing scares us more than the unknown, and getting some expectation of what will happen keeps any distress to a minimum. But you are the best judge as to the level of detail you include for you child.

And involve the rest of the family in these discussions – don’t forget that siblings can have a hard time understanding why their brother or sister isn’t at home or why they need treatment.

Let the games begin

Hospitals are strange and daunting places for kids but you can try to bring a little fun to it. Get your child involved in packing their hospital bag for their big adventure, act out happy hospital scenes with their toys to help them understand what they’ll see and do. Read them stories from children’s books about hospital visits. Ask if you can take some pictures of the ward and hospital to show your child to give them an idea where all this will take place and make it less daunting for them. Most of all, keep it positive.

Get the whole family involved

If you have other children, let them explain what it’s like to going for a hospital visit or dealing with doctors. They might see it in a way you never considered and explain it better than you can. Explain to your child about the fun they can have with their siblings at visiting time and invent special games they can play together.

What other tips can you share?

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