Talking to your child about coming to hospital

Use simple words to tell your child as much as you can about their illness or operation. Explain what will happen when they are in hospital and encourage them to ask questions and talk about how they are feeling.

We suggest you tell your child: 

  • why they are going to hospital
  • who they will meet
  • what will happen when they arrive
  • when and how long you will be staying with your child.

You can contact a child life therapist for further advice on preparing your child for hospital

When to tell your child about coming to hospital

Adolescents (10+)

  • tell older children several weeks before they come to hospital
  • they should be part of all discussions with their health care professionals
  • they may need time to imagine what it will be like and think about ways they can best cope and feel familiar with the Hospital. 

Younger children (4-9 years old)

  • tell younger children a week before their Hospital stay, 3-4 year-olds a few days before they are admitted 
  • they may use their imagination to understand what is happening
  • they may also develop their own coping strategies. 

Children under three 

  • may not fully understand the time
  • there is no need to say anything until just before it is time to leave for the hospital.

Helping your child cope with their hospital stay

  • stay with them overnight as often as you can, especially if your child is young
  • when you leave your child’s side, tell them where you’re going and when you’ll be back
  • tell your child who will look after them in your absence and contact them while you are away
  • help your child keep to a routine where possible, follow the same rules you would have at home
  • tell staff what your child likes and doesn’t like so they can provide them with the best care
  • help your child communicate with the staff looking after them.

Helping siblings cope with their brother’s/sister’s hospital stay

Concern about a sick sibling, separation from parents and changes to routines can affect your other children at home. By preparing your other children for their sibling’s hospital stay, you can help them deal with any fears or concerns they may have.

  • talk to your children about why their sibling needs to come to hospital, giving as much honest information as they can understand
  • give them opportunities to ask questions and express their feelings
  • involve siblings in reading about a hospital visit and in pretend play along with your sick child
  • have siblings visit their brother or sister in hospital when possible
  • you may need to inform siblings’ teachers of the changes at home so that they may receive special consideration from school.

Contact Child Life and Music Therapy

The Child Life and Music Therapy department help minimise the stress and anxiety that hospitalisation through the use of play, music, education and self-expression activities.

The Children's Hospital at Westmead: (02) 7825 3369

Sydney Children's Hospital ,Randwick: (02) 9382 1533

Last updated Thursday 14th December 2023