Preparing for the Hospital Stay

We want to make your child as comfortable as possible while at Kennedy Krieger's inpatient hospital. With that in mind -- and to ensure that your child and family have the most positive possible experience with us -- please consider these recommendations.

Visit the hospital with your child before your stay. By taking a tour of our inpatient unit, you and your child can grow familiar with our staff and facilities, which may help to ease anxiety before and after admission.

Ask questions. We encourage our patients and their families to ask their health care providers any questions they might have. Feel free to write them down in advance and bring them with you. To ease your child's fears, you may want to explain the reason for his or her hospitalization, how care will be provided, and any difficult procedures your child might experience. You may always ask for our help facilitating these conversations with your child.

Have a positive attitude. Children often sense and react to their parents' moods. Your child will likely feel more at ease during his or her hospital stay if you maintain a positive and confident attitude.

Anticipate changes in behavior. Your child may behave as if they were younger during hospitalization. For instance, a typically independent child may become clingy or needy. Rest assured this behavior is normal. Try to give your child the extra support and reassurance he or she needs. When you do have to be away, you may always call his or her room directly to check in.

Be mindful of your child's age-specific coping mechanisms.

  • Infants: Because infants have a strong bond with their primary caregivers, you will want to be with your baby as much as possible during his stay.
  • Toddlers: Children in this age group often have active imaginations. When they are separated from you during hospitalization, they may worry or imagine that you won't return. Reassure your toddler that the separation is temporary and that you'll come back.
  • Preschoolers: At this age, children may view the hospital stay as a punishment for something they did wrong. Assure your child this is not the case. Preschoolers may also fear bodily harm. Explain to your child that the nurses and doctors want to help, not hurt him or her.
  • School-age children: By this age, children have usually developed coping skills to handle the hospital experience and separation from their families. But they may still fear medical procedures and the hospital's unfamiliar surroundings. Your support and repeated explanations (keep it simple) will help minimize these worries.
  • Adolescents: Most teens strive for independence and control in their lives. They also tend to be sensitive about body image. By respecting these issues and maximizing your teen's involvement in health care decision making, you'll provide much-needed support.

Our child life specialists are available to help you address your child's coping and adjustment to the hospital environment, along with providing any age-appropriate medical education and procedural support.