Hospitalization can be stressful for school-age children. Unlike the toddler and preschooler, school-age children usually are much more capable of understanding explanations regarding tests, surgery, and other routines. However, the fears of separation and illness are still very much a part of the hospital experience for school-age children.
Children older than seven can begin preparation for the hospital one to two weeks prior to admission. The time needed for preparation depends upon each individual child and parents can usually judge how much time is required.
Many children of this age fear that their bodies will change as a result of a test or surgery. They also may fear mutilation of a body part. It is important for parents to assure the child with statements such as, "the doctor is going to fix the small hole in your heart, but will not change any other part of your body." The school-age child may also fear that she is being punished for some wrongdoing. Honesty and reassurance are very important at this time.
Books about hospitalization are available for the school-age child may worry that her friends won't know where she is, or that they don't care about her any more. Before admission, try to talk to your child's teacher and some of her friends and suggest they send letters and cards to the hospital. This will help your child's adjustment during hospitalization, as well as afterwards.
If your child is expected to be in the hospital for more than two or three days, please arrange to bring some school books and perhaps some assignments from her teacher. The St. Louis Children's Hospital teachers can supervise school work daily and even contact the child's school teacher, if needed. If you child is unable to return to school immediately after discharge, she may be eligible for a homebound teacher. Ask your St. Louis Children's Hospital teacher for assistance, if needed.
Pictures of family and friends are important for the school-age child while hospitalized. Telephone calls will also help your child feel more comfortable. You and your child's friends may phone her at any time. If for some reason your child does not answer the telephone, there is no need for alarm. She may be getting an x-ray, visiting with nurses or in the playroom. You may call the nurses' station (the hospital operator can give you the number) and ask your child's nurse about her condition, where she is, or discuss questions you may have.
The Child Life Services Playroom is located on the 8th floor. The playroom is open during the day and evening, and patient are encouraged to engage in familiar activities with peers..
Your may notice your child becoming quiet or angry during the hospitalization. These are normal responses to stress, but it is a good idea to contact the Child Life Specialist on your unit for more information regarding these responses. If you have any questions, or would like to speak to someone before or during your child's hospitalization, please call Child Life Services at 314.454.6178 to speak to Child Life Specialist.