Preparing your child for a hospital stay

We know that coming to hospital can sometimes be an anxious time for kids and stressful for families. It may mean traveling a long way from home and being away from family, friends and school for a while or sometimes just for the day.

However there are some simple ways you can help your child prepare for coming to hospital. 

  • Speak to your child about why they need to come to hospital. For older children, tell them at least a week or two beforehand so that they have time to think of any questions or issues that might be relevant to them – address these as a family or refer them onto your contact at the hospital. If your child is under six don’t focus on the admission too much until a couple of days beforehand. Speak to them in a positive manner providing honest explainations that are in words simple enough for their age. Encourage them to ask questions.
  • Read books with younger children about going to hospital, for older children you can find interesting information on the internet to explore. The experience outlined in the book or on the internet may not be your child’s experience, so you can open a discussion with your child and ask ‘I wonder if that will happen when you go to hospital?'.
  • Allow time for hospital play in younger children. Children use play to make sense of their world. Providing simple medical kits and using them in play can be very powerful— they may bandage a teddy bear or listen to dolly’s heartbeat for example.
  • Familiarise your child with the hospital through a visit or look at the virtual tour and photographs on this website.
  • Plan with your child what they would like to take to hospital. Choosing games, favourite books and toys, DVD player and DVDs, activities such as puzzles or colouring in books, as well as pyjamas and comfortable clothes can involve your child. They may even like to bring a favourite pillowslip.
  • Reassure your child that a parent or carer will come with them and can stay with them as often as is possible.
  • Write questions down as a family so that you can ask them to the nurse, doctor or Allied Health person looking after you when you visit.

See Child Life Therapists at The Children's Hospital at Westmead for suggestions about how to support your child during hospitalisation and medical procedures.

If your child is anxious you can call a Child Life therapist on 9845 3369 or email SCHN-CHW-ChildLifeTherapy@health.nsw.gov.au for advice. They may suggest a preadmission visit to build a sense of control about what is going to happen for them.

Parents can be with children at all times on the ward. One parent or carer can stay overnight on a fold out chair on the wards. Only bedside chairs are available in Emergency and Intensive Care.