Talking to Your Child About Hospitalization

Parents are a child’s link to what is safe, familiar and comforting, and your presence is very important. Remember that you are the spokesperson and advocate for your child. Be aware of your child’s fears, feelings and needs, and assure your child that you will be there throughout his/her hospital experience.

The best way to prepare your child for a hospital stay is to talk with your child about what will happen before he/she is admitted to the hospital in words your child can understand. What you say and how you say it may have a big impact on your child’s attitude and comfort during his/her hospital stay. Always answer your child’s questions simply and honestly. Here are some tips for talking with your child:

  • Talk with your child before admission day. Your child’s age should determine when to talk about the hospital stay. For example, if your child is under 3, you should talk with him/her just a few days before admission. Teenagers should have at least one week’s notice.
  • Initiate casual conversation about the upcoming stay, especially if your child does not ask specific questions. Initiating conversation will give your child an opportunity to express feelings and thoughts about being hospitalized.
  • Use hospital resources to address your child’s questions in advance. Your child’s doctors and nurses are the best source for information regarding his/her hospitalization. Children’s Hospital also offers free tours of the hospital to help increase children’s comfort level. For more information, call the Admissions Department at 412-692-5310.

Questions Your Child May Ask

  • Why do I have to go to the hospital? It is important to answer this question honestly. Be sure to explain the real reason for going to the hospital.
  • Who will be with me? Your child needs to know he/she will see doctors and nurses at the hospital. Explain that you will make regular visits and spend the night whenever possible. (Children’s offers overnight parent accommodations.)*
  • Will it hurt? While you don't want to scare your child, it’s important that he/she knows in advance what to expect. With guidance from your child’s doctor, you can explain how things will feel, whether there will be any discomfort and how long it will last. Let your child know that crying is OK and a healthy way to express feelings.
  • Will I look different? Will my friends still like me? Explain any changes your child can expect in his/her appearance, such as a scar or cast. Your child’s friends may not know what to say, so encourage your child to explain what happened as soon as he/she feels comfortable talking about it.
  • When can I come home? As soon as you know when your child will be discharged, identify and work together toward that date. Talk with your child about what you will do together after he/she leaves the hospital.

For more information about overnight accommodations near the hospital, click here.