Tips for Parents

Looking at hospitalization through a child’s eyes

Younger than age 3

Your child’s greatest concern is being away from you.  Being with your child as much as possible during the hospital stay will make your child feel more secure.  Younger children, especially those under age 3, often think that going to the hospital is punishment for misbehavior.  Emphasize that this is not the case.  Encourage your child to express fears and concerns.  Explain, in a way that the child can understand, why the hospital stay is necessary.

Ages 4 to 6

Children in this age group fear damage to their bodies.  Be careful when explaining what will take place.  Avoid phrases that may have different meanings to a child.  For example, your child may associate being put to sleep (when you explain surgical anesthesia) with a pet being put to sleep and think he or she will die just as the pet did.  Instead say: “The doctors or nurses will give you some sleepy juice to help you take a special nap so you won’t feel anything or wake up while you are having your surgery.” Other examples of “soft language.”

Appropriate Not appropriate
a small opening cut you open
bed on wheels stretcher or gurney
big rubber band tourniquet

Ages 6 to 12

Children older than 6 will worry about losing control as well as damage to their bodies.  Be open.  Don’t deny that there could be pain during or after an invasive procedure.  Explain that although it might hurt for a few minutes or for a little while, he or she will be made to feel as comfortable as possible.


Teenagers are often reluctant to ask questions, leading you to believe that they understand more than they actually do.  Encourage your teenager to ask the doctors and nurses questions about his or her condition.  Include your child in discussion about the plan of care for an increased feeling of control.

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