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Helping kids cope with being in the hospital.

Being in the hospital is a stressful time, especially when a child is hospitalized. Terry Spearman, a Child Life Specialist at Children’s National, offers these age-appropriate tips for parents whose child is hospitalized.

It’s important to remember that parents know their child best and that includes how their child handles stressful situations and copes with information. In addition to the tips below for children of different ages, parents should take into consideration the unique needs and developmental spectrum of their own child.


  • Having parents present is a comfort and very important
  • Provide basic information
  • Tell toddlers a day or two before the hospital visit
  • Bring comfort items, like a stuff animal, blanket or favorite book
  • Consider getting a toy medical kit so the child can practice on a doll or stuffed animal.

School-aged children

  • Share information with children
  • Talk about the hospitalization or procedure in terms they can understand.
  • Explain that the reason for the hospitalization is so that the doctors and nurses can make the problem get better.
  • Sensory information is important: if it will smell funny or feel uncomfortable, tell the child


  • Adolescents need a lot of information.
  • They need to prepare themselves and information helps.
  • Encourage them to ask questions and be honest.


  • Like adolescents, teens need a lot of information.
  • Some questions they have may be uncomfortable or embarrassing, so encourage teens to write down their questions so that parents or a healthcare provider can answer them.


Related links

 Flu Resource Center 
 Facts about Flu Vaccinations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) **NEW** - 10/14/09
 Season and H1N1 (Swine) Flu Referral Guidelines (PDF) **NEW** - 10/13/09
 Talking with Children about Flu **NEW** - 10/08/09
 Flu Check List for Parents and Caregivers (PDF) **New** - 10/06/09
 Seasonal Flu and H1N1 (Swine) Flu Information for Parents **NEW**- 10/05/09
Centers for Disease Center - 2009 H1N1 Flu/ Swine Flu information
Helping Siblings Cope with a Brother’s or Sister’s Hospitalization
 Article: Pediatrics: Kids need specialized care in hospital emergency departments (September 2009)
 Article:Volunteers Wanted to Test Swine Flu Vaccine (ABC News, July 22, 2009)
 Article: All Hands on Deck For Anticipated Swine Flu Surge (ABC News, July 23, 2009)
 Article: Children’s Chief Medical Officer discusses H1N1 planning on World News with Charles Gibson

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