Helping your Preschooler cope with the Hospital 

 

Preschool 3-5 years

 

Prepare your preschooler 3 days in advance, simple, age appropriate explanations are best. Preschoolers live in a world of fantasy so be sure to explain meanings of words carefully. For example an I.V. is a small plastic straw that you get your medicine through. Make sure to explain to your preschooler that the hospital is safe and that they did not do anything wrong. Play is how preschoolers learn, so playing doctor with a

medical kit will allow your child to gain mastery over equipment and procedures and become more comfortable with the hospital experience. You can even bring this kit to the hospital so that your child can play doctor during certain procedures like vital checks. Reading books about the hospital may also be helpful. Also, use the prep slides with pictures and age appropriate explanations provided on on this website to prepare your preschooler for procedures like surgery or and MRI. Remember to bring comforting familiar items.

 

Developmental milestones:

 

• Egocentric (they think the world revolves around them)

• Increased yet limited verbal skills

• Fantasy and magical thinking

• Fear of the dark

• Limited concept of time

• View of hospitalization and illness as punishment

• Learn best by doing

• Does not understand death as final

 

Hospital Stressors:

 

• Separation from parent

• Heightened fears

• Fears loss of protection and sense of abandonment

• Misconceptions develop from lack of understanding

• Can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality

• Loss of control

• Limited caregiver involvement

 

Coping behaviors:

 

• Regression

• Temper tantrums

• Aggression and anger

• Guilt

• Fantasy

 

How to help preschoolers cope with hospitalization:

 

• Caregiver presence and participation in care

• Offer choices when possible

• Reinforce that hospitalization and treatments are not punishment

• Allow for expression of feelings through play and verbalization

• Encourage child participation in care

• Allow child to touch and manipulate medical equipment

• Offer simple, concrete explanations

• Be realistic and truthful

• Avoid fantasy provoking words

• Correct misconceptions

• Provide comfort items/ toys and activities

• Caregiver/ patient education

• Procedure support/ medical play

• Interdisciplinary care conference

• May offer behavior incentive chart to reward positive behavior

 

Pain management and distraction techniques:

 

• Conversation (humor)

• Soft music

• Encouraging statements

• Bubbles

• Favorite toy/ play

• Sining, counting

• Comfort positioning

• Watching a video

• IPAD

 

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