Caring for hospitalized children

Hospitalizations can be scary for anyone, especially children. When children are admitted into Methodist Children’s Hospital, we do our very best to make your child and your family feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

As your child enters into different stages of his or her life, their reactions to unfamiliar situations will also change. From infants, to toddlers, to school-aged children and adolescents, we want you and your child to feel like our pediatric hospital is your home away from home when they are sick or injured.

Hospitalizations for infants

Hospital stressors for babies up to 18 months old include disruptions of their normal daily routine, like their sleeping and eating patterns, loud noises in the hospital, sudden movements, bright lights, or even separation from their parents. While your baby is ill, we do our best to make him or her as happy as possible. As their parent, some things you can do to help them feel calmer are:

  • Spend time with, hold and talk to your baby as much as possible
  • Decrease noise level and bright lights
  • Swaddle in blanket when not holding
  • Provide calming music

Hospitalizations for toddlers and preschoolers

As your child grows up, the things that scare them also change. When children from 18 months to five years old are hospitalized, common problems they go through include separation anxiety from their parents, stranger anxiety with the medical staff, an unfamiliar environment and their loss of control, independence and mobility. To help your child feel more comfortable in the hospital environment, as a parent, you should:

  • Provide physical and emotional support with hugs and encouraging words
  • Allow your child to make appropriate choices to feel more ‘in control’
  • Let your child play: bring favorite toys or stuffed animals
  • Normalize the environment by hanging up pictures of family and friends

Hospitalizations for school-aged children

When your child is admitted into the hospital, it is normal for them to have misconceptions about what hospitalization means, feel a loss of independence, or be scared of pain. Many six to 12-year-olds will act out because of these things As a parent, some things you can do to calm your child and reassure them are:

  • Encourage play and expression of emotions
  • Allow your child to participate in his care, as appropriate
  • Be honest and use child-friendly language to help them understand their illness and treatment
  • Treat your child as normally as possible

Hospitalizations for teenagers

As your child becomes a teenager or young adult, everything you’ve known about them over the past several years starts to change – everything is changing for them, too. When your teenager is hospitalized, they’re likely going to be worried about being separated from their friends, school and extracurricular activities. They’re probably also going to be on high-alert because they feel a loss of independence and privacy and fear the worst, like death. It’s normal for them to feel angry or withdrawn because of this.

As a parent, it is important to show them that you care while letting them feel independent, even though they do need you at this point in their life. Some things you can do to help them include:

  • Allow peer contact and visitation
  • Respect privacy
  • Involve adolescent in medical care and decisions
  • Communicate honestly
  • Continue education/schooling