May 13th is the International Day for Hospitalized Children. To celebrate and to give support to all families living through the situation of having young children in the hospital, we have made this list of tips to help make their hospital experience the least traumatic as possible and for them to understand what is going on. In this way, these children will feel supported and cared for by their families and healthcare professionals.
According to data from the ‘Punto Farmacológica 148’ report prepared by the General Council of Pharmaceutical Associations (CGCOF), childhood cancer affects around 1,100 children every year in Spain. These children, throughout their cancer treatment journey, spend long periods of time hospitalized and disconnected from everyday life. To make sure their hospitalization has as little impact as possible on their emotions and behavior, we have prepared a series of tips to help you manage this situation in the best way possible.
Recommendations to consider with the hospitalized child
- Answer any questions he or she may have about his or her condition. This will help the child feel calmer and safer knowing that he or she has support. The child will also be able to better understand why he or she is in the hospital and everything that is about to happen. This will allow the child to better adjust to all situations.
- Help the child express his/her fears and concerns. Being in a hospital does not mean the child does nothing and is bed-ridden. They need to be able to play, draw and do other activities that help them express themselves. In addition, it’s interesting how they will get to know about new tools and common hospital objects, like syringes, lines or devices. Let them to learn what they are and be able to feel comfortable with them.
- Get the child involved in his or her medical care. Allow them to play a direct role in their care and course of their disease. Join them in walking around the hospital, changing their bandages and doing rehabilitation exercises.
- Shake up their entertainment routine. Encourage them to play board games, bring books, TV shows or movies, so they can have a moment of disconnection.
- Surprise them a little when their doctors and the situation allows. On the days or weeks that are the hardest for them, surprise them with something that will cheer them up or bring one of their friends to visit so they can spend time together.
- Don’t forget about the child’s communication with the rest of the family. While hospitalized, it is important that the child feels like everyone is there for him and that he or she can talk and spend time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, in addition to their parents and siblings. Nowadays, this is so much easier with videocalls.
- Get into a routine. Schedule these activities carefully in the hospital so you still respect the hospital rules and guidelines. This way, you won’t disrupt the normal routines, and it will be easier to follow the guidelines. This will keep everything calmer and organized.
- Be very patient with the child. Remember that hospitalized children are going through an extreme situation and that it will have effects on their attitude and behavior. Listen to them, talk to them and try to understand everything that is going on.
The most important thing is to make sure they know they aren’t alone and encourage them to get well soon. Explain all the phases of the treatment and of the process they are going through. Talk to them about plans for what you’re all going to do when they leave the hospital and get better so they have something to look forward to. Be careful not to generate anxiety around these expectations. Don’t forget that they are kids who want to play, be happy, be calm and have new experiences.