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Tips for Parents

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What to Tell Your Child

There's no one right way to prepare your child for the tests and procedures he/she may face. Let your child's age, ability to understand and emotional makeup guide you. And trust your instincts. After all, nobody knows your child better than you.

Follow These Guidelines

Children typically do better when they know what to expect from a doctor's visit or hospital stay. Pre-school children don't need a lot of advance warning — just a day or two. Older children may need a little more time to digest what you're telling them, as well as time to talk about it and ask questions. Once you've decided when to talk to your child about the care he/she will receive, you'll need to think about what to say and how to say it. These guidelines may help:

  • Give children honest, simple and concrete information they can understand.
  • Use neutral, unemotional language to describe tests and procedures.
  • Focus on painting a picture of what your child's experience will be like, not the technical details of every procedure.
  • Reassure your child that the hospital, doctor's office or clinic is not a punishment and that the staff are there to help him/her feel better.

Turn to Our Child Life Specialists

Child life specialists do many things to help children who need heart care, including helping them prepare for medical tests and procedures. They use techniques such as books, dolls and medical play to address children's questions and help them deal with their fears and anxieties. If you have concerns or need help talking to your child about his/her procedure, call a child life specialist. These specialists can talk to you by phone and/or also schedule a tour for you and your child.