Familiar routines and activities can help children and teenagers cope with stressful health care situations by strengthening their sense of security and confidence. Here are some suggestions.
Maintain Consistent Routines
- Provide familiar objects for your child, such as a blanket, stuffed animals and his/her own pajamas.
- Encourage quiet activities, such as music, movies and books in the early stages after a procedure or surgery.
- When your child is feeling better, encourage him/her to participate in activities provided by the Child Life Department, including arts/crafts, board games, video games, group activities and pet therapy visits.
Help Your Child Cope with Pain and Feelings
- Continue to touch your baby or child and speak softly and reassuringly.
- Offer pinwheels or bubbles to blow. Blowing helps with pain and rebuilds lung strength.
- Give your child clay dough or pounding boards to help diffuse anger.
- Help young children cope with routine medical care by giving him/her a “play doctor kit.”
- Encourage older kids and teenagers to express their feelings in a journal.
- Invite family and friends to visit as appropriate.
Help Siblings Cope
When a child needs heart surgery, it can be stressful on the whole family, including brothers and sisters. They often feel anxious about disrupted family routines. Here are a few suggestions for how you can help siblings cope.
- Communicate openly and honestly about your child's heart condition with the siblings and encourage them to express feelings and ask questions.
- When possible, it may be helpful to take along a family member or friend who can help keep the sibling(s) busy during your child's clinic visit.
- For longer hospital visits, make sure there is someone special, such as a grandparent or family friend, to spend one-on-one time with siblings.
- If a sibling wants to visit their brother or sister in the hospital, ask a child life specialist to help prepare him or her. Encourage siblings to help out their brother or sister by drawing a picture, watching a movie together or calling him/her on the phone.