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Preparing Your Child for a Hospital Visit

March 28, 2018
No one wants to end up in the emergency room or the hospital, but it can be a particularly anxiety-provoking experience for children. Jennifer Seiler, a child life specialist at GBMC, talked with Ashley James, host of ABC 2 News Good Morning Maryland, about how to prepare your child for a visit to the hospital and all the ways a child life specialist can make the experience a more positive one for the whole family.

“The emergency room is a place you never plan to be, but our child life specialists work to normalize the hospital experience for young patients by using familiar, fun activities like games and crafts, and explaining everything they’ll experience step-by-step,” Jennifer explained. “Play is the foundation of everything we do and it helps children understand that the hospital is a safe place and that everyone is there to help them.”

Jennifer suggested ways that parents can help ease their children’s anxiety about hospital and doctor visits, including reading age-appropriate books like Curious George Goes to the Hospital and playing with toy medical kits that allow them to become familiar with the equipment they’ll see when they’re receiving care. If your child is scheduled to be hospitalized, a tour before they’re admitted can also be a big help.

At GBMC, whether your child is in the emergency room or is admitted to the hospital, you can ask your doctor or nurse to arrange for a child life specialist to see your child. There’s no charge for the service, which is supported by donations to the hospital

Jennifer also shared advice for the siblings of children who are in the hospital. “Siblings often feel forgotten when a brother or sister is in the hospital,” she explained. “It’s important to maintain as much of their routine at home as possible—attending school, going to bed at the usual time—and to let them know what’s going on with their sibling.”
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