Hospitalization is often as stressful for teenagers as it is for young children. However, different stressors are involved. Adolescents have an increased need for socialization, and hospitalization tends to separate the teenager not only from family, but also from friends. To help reduce this feeling of separation, it is important to try and arrange for friends to come visit or telephone your teen during his hospital stay. Hospitalization may also cause your teenager to feel a loss of independence or control over himself and his environment. To help alleviate these feelings, it is important to encourage your teen to stay active and participate in his own care. A Child Life Specialist will also provide a variety of choices to help your teenager maintain some control during hospitalization.
Adolescents need a great deal of privacy. Teenagers are not only private about their bodies, buy also about their thoughts and feelings. This privacy needs to be respected at all times. Encourage your teenager to pull the curtain around his bed for privacy, if in a double room. Medical staff will not perform embarrassing or painful procedures in the Teen Lounge or any other public area.
Teenagers are very aware of their bodies and their illnesses. Body image is a very important part of the adolescent’s self-concept. Hospitalization may cause you adolescent to feel insecure, to feel that something is very wrong with their bodies or that their bodies may never be the same again. Because of this, it is extremely important to encourage open communication and questions regarding expectations. It is also important to talk to your teenager about the procedures and explain what will happen in as much detail as possible. Encourage your teenager to make a list of questions and bring it to the hospital. The staff will be happy to help answer these.
Once you and your teenager are admitted to the hospital, you can ask to have a tour of any areas where procedures are done, or any other area of the hospital about which your teen may be curious. The Child Life Specialist on your patient unit can arrange these tours.
Special services are provided by the Child Life staff to help the teenager adjust to hospitalization. The Teen Lounge, located in the Child Life Center on the hospital’s 8th floor is a room with a surround sound stereo, Wii, XBOX 360, Playstation, computers, arts and crafts projects that rotate frequently, and other planned activities especially for patients over 12 years of age. Activities in this area give teens a chance to maintain some independence and peer socialization while in the hospital. It is also important to bring your teenager’s school books to the hospital. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital school program can help with assignments and contact the teen’s school teacher, if necessary, for information about assignments.
If you have questions or would like your teenager to come for a pre-hospitalization tour or to discuss upcoming surgery or procedures please call Child Life Services at 314.454.6178 to schedule an appointment, or to speak with a Child Life Specialist.