Preparing child for hospital admission

When you are told that your child needs to be admitted to hospital, temporarily or for a longer period of time, various feelings come to mind. Feelings of tension alternate with feelings of pity and so on. A hospital admission is a major event for a child. It is therefore important that you prepare your child as best as possible for a hospital admission. A hospital stay can be temporary or long-term. The admission time mainly depends on the reason for hospital admission. A child with heart problems will usually need to be hospitalized for longer than a child with, for example, cow’s milk allergy. The reaction of parents and children to an impending hospital admission is of different nature. Factors that influence the response include the duration of admission, the age of the child, the reason for admission and the child’s independence.

Common behavior of parents

When parents are told that their child needs to be admitted, several things can happen. On the one hand, a parent will feel relief because the child’s dire situation will be addressed with care. On the other hand, parents may experience feelings of anxiety about the course of the hospital stay. Feelings of guilt can also arise when parents are unsure whether they have made the right decision (previously).

To spoil

Many parents tend to spoil their child when they have to be admitted to hospital. Feelings of pity and sometimes guilt predominate, parents try to make up for this to some extent by spoiling the child with extra attention, hugs, sweets and gifts. This is a logical response , but not a very adequate response. Some children immediately sense that something is wrong when they are spontaneously spoiled. This can cause pressure. The child will probably feel temporarily better from the pampering. But after being discharged from the hospital, life continues as usual, without the extra pampering. This can cause a child to become disappointed . It is okay to pay extra attention during the period of hospitalization, but do not exaggerate.


A hospital admission of your child can cause a lot of tension, not only for you and your partner, but this tension can also put pressure on your relationship . As a parent you have to be careful not to bottle up and repress your emotions. It is okay to grow up for a while, for example when you are visiting your child who is sick, but you should also certainly find the space to consciously process and express your emotions. Don’t close yourself off to your partner and friends, after all, shared sorrow is half sorrow .

Common behavior of the child

Just like the parents, a child can react in various ways to the impending hospital admission. One child will react very matter-of-factly while the other child will fearfully count down the days until the ‘terrible day’. Some children even exude a sense of pride when they tell their friends about their hospital stay.

Stomach cramps

Some children react with intense anxiety to the impending hospital visit and complain of various other complaints , regardless of the original reason for admission. Children’s complaints intensify as the day of admission approaches. Common complaints include abdominal cramps, sleep disorders and problems with eating.

Behavior from the past

There are children who revert to previously unlearned behavior from early childhood, such as thumb sucking or excessive clinging to a certain stuffed animal. This mainly occurs in children who internalize their feelings, in other words, in children who have difficulty expressing their feelings.

Preparing for hospital admission

Given the possible reactions to the impending hospital admission described above, it is wise to prepare your child as best as possible for the hospital admission. Various methods and resources are suitable for this.


Many bookstores nowadays have informative (picture) books in which the impending hospital visit is discussed in a playful and light-hearted manner. These accessible booklets are for children in various age categories and therefore fit well with the child’s experience . Reading through such a booklet can provide an opening for an open conversation between parent and child about the hospital admission, in which the child can indicate any uncertainties.


A hospital stay is no fun. It is therefore extra important that the child knows that mom and dad will visit as often as possible .

Be realistic

Some parents try to ease their child’s suffering by making the hospital admission more beautiful than it is. However, this is not wise and certainly not fair to the child. The disappointment will be even greater if the child unexpectedly experiences pain during admission. This also affects the child’s trust in the parents.

Visit beforehand

In many hospitals it is possible to visit the hospital before the actual admission. The child can then become acquainted with various aspects of the hospital in a casual and relaxed way. This may make the transition from home to hospital slightly smaller. However, this hospital visit should only be done if the child has enough resilience and is also curious about it. If a child gets a negative impression as a result of the visit, he or she may become more anxious.

Acute admission

A hospital admission cannot always be planned. Sometimes circumstances arise that the child must be admitted immediately, and there is therefore no room for preparation. In such cases, it is very important that the parents arrange a social safety net for themselves, because the acute admission has forced them to suddenly put their entire lives on hold, which can be accompanied by intense emotions and practical inconveniences. A social safety net can support the parents in such a case and possibly take over tasks so that the parents can fully focus on their child.

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