Discovering that your child needs hospitalization due to the flu, RSV, or COVID-19 can be an overwhelming experience. During flu season, infection control rules restrict the ways that kids can interact and socialize in the hospital. Family and friends cannot visit as frequently, and kids cannot play with other children in the playrooms, increasing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Questions may arise as to how to best care for both you and your child during this trying time.
Viktoria de Jong, Starlight’s Mission Delivery Coordinator and Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), shares some tips and resources for supporting yourself and your child.
Learn more about common hospital support services
Most hospitals employ a dedicated CCLS who can assist in explaining the hospital experience and procedures to your child.
Social workers are also available to help you access resources, navigate the healthcare system, and provide emotional support.
Some hospitals feature specialized educators who can help educate you and your family about your child's diagnosis and offer guidance on caring for them when they are ill.
Hospitals also commonly have psychologists to support you and your child's mental health needs.
Please contact your child's care team to determine what forms of support are available to you.
Lean on support networks
Explore online communities, including social media platforms, to connect with other parents facing similar challenges and illnesses.
See if your hospital organizes support groups or parent programs designed to foster self-care.
As a parent, nurturing your own well-being is essential to effectively care for your child.
Dedicate time to self-care, whether it's through activities like yoga, taking leisurely walks, or indulging in hobbies that bring you joy.
Infection Control Protocols are For Your Safety
Hospitals enforce strict infection control measures during flu, RSV, and COVID season. Ensure you and your child adhere to flu prevention guidelines such as hand washing and mask-wearing as appropriate to keep everyone safe!
Advocate for Your Child
You might feel anxiety or fear or feel so overwhelmed by your child’s diagnosis that you may not feel comfortable reaching out to the healthcare team about your child’s needs. You may feel like you do not have enough medical knowledge either. Remember, though, that the healthcare team is there to help your child. Always communicate your child’s needs, whether it's regarding pain management or addressing areas of discomfort.
Consult Your Child Life Specialist
CCLS are experts in child development who specialize in helping children cope with the anxiety and stress of hospitalization.
Collaborate with your CCLS to plan how you will explain your child’s diagnosis to them, ensuring the information is conveyed appropriately.
Consider arranging a medical play session with your CCLS - a valuable tool for helping your child understand the hospital environment and medical procedures.
Call the hospital or ask a hospital staff member to direct you to the Child Life team.
Help the Hospital Feel More Like Home
The hospital’s unfamiliar setting can be stressful and scary for a child. Providing children experiences that they recognize as “normal” to their everyday life outside of the hospital gives the unfamiliar place structure, security, and familiarity.
Bring comforting items from home, such as cozy socks, blankets, pajamas, or their favorite toy, to remind your child of their everyday lives.
Starlight programs can also help your child feel safe by making the hospital setting more familiar:
Starlight Hero Wagons enable children to go on joyrides around the hospital, fostering familiarity as they explore the environment.
Starlight Hospital Gowns are made of soft material with fun designs that remind kids of their pajamas from home.
Prepare for Post-Hospital Recovery
Recognize that a child's journey with illness may extend beyond their hospital stay. Prepare to support your child through post-hospital recovery, including ongoing treatments, follow-up appointments, and at-home care.
During challenging times, these resources and strategies will empower you to provide the best possible care and support for your child's well-being and recovery because happy kids heal faster.