Has your child had to stay in the hospital or have an outpatient procedure? Hopefully not, but many families have had at least one child go through this experience. Many hospitals aren’t the monochromatic sterile places they used to be. Hospitals that serve children have done a lot to make the experience as positive as possible.
Our family has had some experience with this because of my daughter’s cleft palate surgeries. When she was very young, the toy room was a fun place to hang out. Later on, the child life specialist gave us our first chance to play Fruit Ninja on an iPad. No matter what the form, positive distractions were everywhere to help her through the toughest moments.
This recent study gives more insight into how a mother’s coping skills can affect the anxiety level of her child while in the hospital. As a mom who’s been through this process, I can assure you that feeling stress is nearly unavoidable. You know what you are doing is best for your child, but you hate to see them in pain or feeling anxious about being in the hospital.
It can be a tough balance, trying to look calm and confident while your palms feel clammy and your heart races just a bit. But the more you can distract yourself from worry, the easier it gets.
This particular study looked at children’s drawings, and at questionnaires that asked about the mother’s coping behaviors and her satisfaction with the hospital. The results were similar to what I suggested above. The more coping skills the mother used, the less the drawings showed signs of anxiety.
The coping behaviors examined in this study including leaning on family members to help with non-hospitalized children, keeping social support around, and gaining knowledge about the hospital experience. I did all three of these and found the combination to be really helpful.
The goal isn’t to be a perfect smiling parent. It’s to have a calm responsive presence for the benefit of your child as much as possible. There may be times when your child is doing fine and other times when they really need you.
More than likely, the normal healthy things you do at home are the very things that will help you in the hospital. You don’t have to learn how to do a lot of new stress management techniques. Just do a few good strategies that you know will help.
And when you’re child doesn’t feel good and seems reassured by your presence anyway, you’re doing the right things. Many hospitals now have specialists trained to help kids feel better about their stay in the hospital. Find out as much as possible about what your hospital has to offer before you go.
Here’s the link to that study again. (It has not been published yet, but has been accepted for publication soon.)