If your child has to go to hospital
Prepare your child for a hospital stay
Hospitals can be strange, frightening places for children. Being ill or in pain can also make them upset. You might feel helpless, but there are things you can do to comfort your child.
Prepare your child as much as you can. Play doctors and nurses or operations using teddies and dolls, and read story books about being in hospital.
It's good to do this even if your child isn't due to go to hospital. Many children under 5 have to go into hospital at some stage, and often in an emergency.
Explain as much as possible to your child. Even young children need to know what's happening to them. It's important to be truthful. What children imagine is often worse than reality. Don't say that something won't hurt when it will.
Some hospitals arrange visits for children and their families before a child is admitted for a planned treatment or operation. It's also important to let your child know when they'll be able to see you and whether you'll be staying with them.
Explain to your child what being in hospital will be like. Tell them they'll be sharing a ward with other children of their own age and it'll be different from their own bedroom at home.
Stay with your child in hospital
It will help your child if you visit them in hospital as much as possible and, with young children especially, sleep there. Do all you can to arrange this.
All hospital children's departments now have some room for parents to stay overnight with their children. Talk to hospital staff beforehand. Be clear about the arrangements and what will happen.
Talk to the hospital staff
Talk to one of the nurses or doctors who will be treating your child about anything you think is important. Inform staff of any special words your child uses – such as for needing to go to the toilet – and any particular ways you have of comforting them.
Take your child's comforter into hospital
Let your child take a favourite teddy or comforter with them into hospital.
Be prepared for your child to be upset by the experience. They may continue to be upset for some time afterwards. Give them as much reassurance as you can.
You may find it helpful to read the CBeebies information for parents on health problems and operations.
Video: how to prepare for your child's hospital stay
This video is a practical guide on how to prepare for your child going into hospital.
Media review due: 9 May 2021
Page last reviewed: 19 July 2018
Next review due: 19 July 2021