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admission in words the child can understand. How parents describe the event can affect a child's attitude during the hospital stay. parent and child can pack together for the hospital stay and include a favorite toy; the entire family should be included in a pre-hospital discussion. It is a good idea for parents to borrow a library book that describes a hospital stay and read it with the child.

A child's questions should always be answered simply and honestly. When to bring up the subject of hospitalization varies according to the age of the child. For example, a youngster under age three should be told just a few days before admission, whereas teens should have at least a week's notice.

if the child does not talk about the upcoming hos-pitalization, the parent should start casual conversations about the event, especially if the child does not ask specific questions. This gives the child a chance to express feelings about being hospitalized. it is important to explain clearly to a child the need for the hos-pitalization honestly. in addition, the child needs to know that there will be doctors and nurses at the hospital, and that the parent will make regular visits and spend the night whenever possible. (Many hospitals allow parents to stay overnight.)

it is important that children understand what to expect ahead of time. With guidance from the child's doctor, parents can explain how things will feel, whether there will be pain, how long it will last, and that crying is a healthy way to express feelings.

parents should clearly discuss any potential changes in the child's appearance, such as a scar or cast. Because the child's friends may not know what to say, the child should explain to them what happened. When a discharge date is given, the parent and child can discuss what they will do together afterward. No matter how tempting, parents should avoid telling a child things that are not true. if procedures will hurt, parents should say so.

if surgery is planned, parents should discuss how the child can expect to feel after an operation, emphasizing that the hospital stay is only temporary.

Younger Than Age Three

At this age, a child's greatest worry is usually being away from parents. Being with a child as much as possible during the hospital stay will make the child feel more secure. Younger children (especially those under age three) often think of hospitalization as a punishment for misbehavior. parents should encourage a child to express fears and concerns and explain clearly why the hospital stay is necessary.

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