Helping your Toddler cope with the Hospital 

 

Toddler 1-3 years

 

Prepare your toddler a day before the hospital, simple, age appropriate explanations are best. Remember that toddlers are still learning the meanings of words that we may think are simple, like arm surgery or anesthesia; instead you may say “fix your arm” or “sleepy medicine”.  Using a book, may help you facilitate conversation and answer questions in a more concrete, age appropriate manner. Allowing your child to play with a medical kit may help your child attain mastery over otherwise scary equipment and procedures and may help with expression of feelings. During the hospital stay it may be helpful to have the doctor or nurse check you before your child, for example the nurse may check your heart before your child’s.  Allow your toddler to make simple realistic choices like which outfit to wear to the hospital or which stuffed animal to bring, avoiding unrealistic choices like what time would you like to go to the hospital. It is normal for your toddler to be fussy, so be patient and try to  maintain as normal environment as possible by providing comfort and familiar items.

 

Developmental milestones:

 

• Seeks independence

• Developing language skills

• Learning new skills like walking/ toilet training

• Mobility is a means to learning

• Threatened by changes in routine

• Short attention span

 

Hospital Stressors:

 

• Separation from parent and fear of abandonment

• Stranger anxiety

• Unfamiliar environment

• Loss of autonomy and mobility

• Change in routine

• Laying on back frightens toddlers

• Respond fearfully to sudden movements

• Limited caregiver involvement

 

Coping behaviors:

 

• Regression of recently learned developmental skills

• Clinging behavior

• Temper tantrums

 

How to help toddlers cope with hospitalization:

 

• Caregiver presence and participation in care

• Allow for motor activity

• Maintain daily schedule including bedtime

• Offer realistic choices when possible

• Expect toddler to resist treatment

• Provide simple explanations

• Comfort items/ toys

• Caregiver education

• Procedure support/ medical play

• Positive reinforcement (prizes)

• Interdisciplinary care conference

 

Pain management and distraction techniques:

 

• Light up toys

• Music

• Encouraging statements

• Bubbles

• Favorite toy

• Singing

• Watching videos

• IPAD

• Comfort positioning

 

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