Children in the Hospital: Anxieties Galore


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Over five million children every year are admitted into the hospital. This experience can cause great anxiety not only for the child but for the parents as well.

A hospital stay is never easy.

Ellen Earl, CCLS, a Child Life Specialist at Arnold Palmer Hospital said “A lot of times, kids come in and they are really nervous. They are in a strange environment and meeting a brunch of new people.”

Preparation is key. If parents can explain to their kids where they are going and why they are going there, kids can be a little less anxious. Another thing that can help, bring comfort items from home such as blankets or toys.

“That way when the child separates from their parents, it’s not a difficult separation because they have those items from home that are comforting for them.” Earl shared.

Finally, if you have other children, some hospitals offer children play areas to keep siblings occupied while you talk to doctors and focus on the other child’s hospital stay. And remember to talk to your other children about what’s happening with their sibling.

Ask for a list of red flags from the doctor to look for when your child is discharged from the hospital. A parent is always the best expert on their child. If something doesn’t look or feel right, never be afraid to say so.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

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REPORT #2457

BACKGROUND: In the United States, roughly five million children are admitted to the hospital each year. A stay in the hospital can be difficult for a child at any age. Illness and hospital stays are both stressful. They disrupt a child’s life and can interfere with normal development. Children may miss their friends and family while staying in the hospital and might even be bored or afraid. Children may not understand why they are there, or have false beliefs about what is happening to them. A hospital stay will affect different children in different ways, depending on age, the reason for their hospitalization, and temperament. There are many ways you can help your child cope with the stresses of a hospital stay. The less stress and anxiety your child has, the better the recovery from illness will be.

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FEAR AND ANXIETY IN CHILDREN: Fear and anxious behavior in children is common. Most children learn to cope with a range of normal fears and worries. The most common anxiety disorders in children of primary school age are phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and separation anxiety. Children with anxiety may develop their own strategies to try to manage situations that cause them distress. This often involves trying to avoid the situation or having a parent deal with it for them. Avoiding a situation makes it more likely that the child will feel anxious and be unable to manage it the next time. This makes it more difficult for the child to cope with everyday stresses at home, school or in social settings. Anxiety can also result in physical difficulties such as sleeplessness, diarrhea, stomach aches and headaches, and can spur irritability, difficulty concentrating and tiredness.


 BEING PROACTIVE: Children have different ways of thinking from adults, so what might seem ordinary to an adult can be very frightening to a child. Some hospitals allow visits by parents and children before the child needs to be admitted so they can see the environment and become comfortable in knowing what will happen. For toddlers and very young children, it’s important not to tell them too far in advance because they don’t need too long to worry about something they don’t understand. Hospitals may also have printed material (such as pictures of children in a hospital) or information on the internet you could read through with your child. Another good idea to lower the stress of a hospital stay is to read a story about a child who goes to the hospital, gets better and comes home. Children in hospitals need the support of a parent or a very close family member. The younger the child is, the more important it is for you to stay with that child if you can. Most importantly, be honest with them about what is going to happen. Your child needs to be able to trust you.



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