If your little one has to spend a night or more in the hospital, begin to prepare him or her ahead of time to allay some fears.
Talk openly and candidly to your child and explain the reasons for the visit. If you are calm and matter of fact, he or she will be, too.
Read books about hospital stays to young children. Make these story times open forums for answering even the smallest questions -- as well as the big ones.
Tour the pediatric ward with your child, and if needed, the surgery, recovery, and waiting rooms, too. Ask the available health care professionals for simple explanations of procedures. They are trained in the best ways to be reassuring.
Your pediatrician will go over any procedures step-by-step with you and your child. If surgery is involved, this is especially important.
Reassure your child that you will be there in the recovery room when she opens her eyes.
If the hospital permits it, arrange to spend the night with your son or daughter. For little ones, this is particularly comforting. And it's reassuring for you, too! You will find that family members and neighbors are more than willing to help you with your other children -- and even with your dog who is missing his walks -- so that you can devote yourself to the child in the hospital.
What to Bring
Pack ahead so that you don't forget a thing. Ask the child to help -- but don't let him go overboard bringing toys and games.
Pack pajamas, slippers, and a robe. Pack clean clothes for the trip home and several changes of clean underwear.
Bring a favorite blanket and stuffed animal, as well as books, coloring paraphernalia, comics, and small puzzles or games.
Send along an iPod or similar device fitted with earphones and your child's favorite music.
Make a small album or packet of photographs of the family, friends and pets.
Write down all important telephone numbers. Even if your child has memorized these, he will feel reassured to have them easily accessible.
When You Visit
Bring a surprise, treat, or something familiar when you visit. Pass on news of school, home and friends. Keep your tone upbeat and warm. Try not to show your own stress and fatigue.
When you leave, make sure your child knows when you will return. If parents are encouraged to sleep overnight with their child, take advantage of this if you possibly can. Both you and your offspring will be happy.
If the hospital stay is an extended one, encourage your child to meet other kids on the ward. Accompany him to the game room where pediatric patients can spend time with each other.
Explain to your other children that you and your spouse will be giving extra time to their hospitalized sibling. Suggest they call and make cards -- and bring them along to visit whenever possible.
Stock up on easy, quick, and well liked foods. Freeze several casseroles or stews. Ask relatives and neighbors to help out with after-school responsibilities and meals.
Call your child's teacher to explain the situation. Chances are the class will want to make a card or poster for their classmate.
Remember that most people are happy to help, so don't hesitate to ask. Both you and your child will need it.