Preparing Your Child for Hospitalization

It is important to be honest with your child about his surgery or hospitalization. Let him know some procedures may hurt, but most will not. Your child should understand that it is OK to cry but that it is important to cooperate with the hospital staff. Be prepared to explain why the hospitalization is necessary and what is expected. Reassure your child that you will be there throughout his hospitalization and that his hospital stay is not a punishment. Let him know that the doctor and nurse will help him feel better and when the doctor says he is well enough, he may return home.

Helping Young Children Understand a Hospital Stay

Being away from home and separated from parents and family are probably the most stressful aspects of hospitalization for any child. Because a child's hospitalization affects the whole family, be sensitive to your other children's concern about their sibling. Explain what is happening and, when appropriate, arrange for family to visit. Please use these helpful age appropriate tips to prepare for a hospital stay: 

Baby or Toddler

  • Allowing your toddler to help pack his suitcase
  • Staying with your child as much as possible, especially overnight
  • Providing as much of your child's care as you can
  • Explaining to your child that getting sick and/or going to the hospital is NOT his fault
  • Allowing your child to express his feelings appropriately, for instance, by playing hospital
  • Reading books about going to the hospital

Preschooler and School Age

  • Talk positively about going to the hospital a few days prior to admission; for older children, this can start one to two weeks before admission
  • Tell your child why he is going to the hospital and what he can expect
  • Tell your child about the normal things that happen in a hospital such as watching television or playing with toys
  • Explain to your child that getting sick and/or going to the hospital is NOT his fault
  • Read books about going to the hospital
  • Give simple, honest answers - if you do not know the answer to your child's question, tell him you will find the answer and let him know
  • Tell your child where you will be while he is in the hospital
  • Allow your child to express his feelings appropriately, for instance, by playing hospital and using toys
  • Let him know that he won't wake up during surgery because the medicine will make him sleepy - once the doctor is finished and the medicine wears off, he will wake up


It is important to talk with your teenager about being in the hospital and the procedures he will experience. Teens fear being away from school and friends. You can help by:

  • Thoroughly explain the need for surgery or hospitalization
  • Encourage your teenager to make a list of questions and ask them
  • Encourage open communication
  • Bring school books and assignments
  • Respect your teenager's privacy
  • Tell your teenager he can participate in his care
  • Provide your teenager with as many choices as possible regarding his care

Emotional Support from Child Life Specialists

As critical members of our care team at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, our team of Child Life Specialists are specially trained to help children understand their care and provide a sense of normalcy while they are in the hospital. Our team members work with children of all ages, one-on-one, to explain clinical care or procedures so young patients better understand why something needs to be done.