Childhood Cancer

WHY DO I HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL? Will they hurt me? Are you going to leave me there? How long will I stay? These are some of the questions your child might ask before a trip to the hospital. Hospitals are fascinating, but sometimes frightening, places for children. They are full of beds with bars, buzzing machinery, and unfamiliar adults. Your child may be sick or hurt when she first enters this strange, new place. She may also be very worried.

For a parent, taking a child to the hospital can be scary as well. You must put your child in someone else’s hands and you may worry that there is no way to ease your child’s fears. However, you can do plenty to prepare your child both physically and emotionally for a stay in the hospital. You can learn about your child’s illness or injury and answer his questions honestly. You can work in partnership with the medical team to give your child the very best that modern medicine has to offer. You can pack a favorite teddy bear, book, or game. All of these actions will help your child feel safe and comfortable.

If you know what to expect once you and your child get to the hospital, you can make hospital routines more predictable, and even fun. Tips on taking pills, having x-rays, and dealing with IVs can help make these procedures easier to manage. Decorating the hospital room and visiting child life specialists will make your child’s stay more cheerful, and forming a close working relationship with your child’s doctors and nurses will increase your entire family’s peace of mind. Knowing what to expect will help ease your fears and empower you to be a strong advocate for your child.

Being your child’s advocate may be a new role for you. This book will help you work more effectively with medical personnel by discussing how to:

Make a plan. Consider what to bring to the hospital, how to prepare your child for her stay, and ways to adjust your work schedule and deal with your child’s schooling.

Educate yourself. Learn about the treatment, surgery, doctor, and hospital, and how to find materials to help prepare your child.

Communicate. Work with family members, doctors, and nurses to build a team that will focus on your child’s care. Help to ensure that your child’s doctor hears your concerns and that you understand the doctor.

Be a role model. Learn how other parents comforted their children and coped with their children’s behavior changes during and after the trip to the hospital.

This book also covers topics such as helpful things your family members and friends can do and say while your child is in the hospital, and how you can include brothers and sisters before and during the hospitalization. If your child is in the hospital for weeks or months, you’ll find tips on how to work with the school so your child will not get too far behind. In addition, all parents of hospitalized children need to manage insurance, bills, and medical records, so those topics are covered as well.

In addition, stories from more than forty parents describe their children’s hospitalizations and offer advice to help you prepare. These parents share how they answered their children’s questions, cleared up misconceptions, and got them ready to go. Their stories show how good preparation transformed their children’s fears into curiosity and cooperation. However, every family is unique. Your child’s hospital visit may be a whirlwind affair, but other children may be in the hospital for months. Because each family has different needs, this book presents a range of suggestions and stories. You will be able to pick the tips that will best help your child. Don’t expect to follow the advice of all forty parents—that might become overwhelming rather than empowering. Instead, think of the book as a rich menu of choices.

This book covers emergency room visits, short-term stays, and lengthy hospitalizations. It contains journal pages where children can express their feelings about their hospitalization through words or drawings. A packing list will help you decide what to bring along.

At the end of the book is a Resources section that lists books for parents and children of all ages. Organizations that help families with hospitalizations are also included.

Because both boys and girls are hospitalized, we did not use only masculine personal pronouns (he, him). Instead, we alternated pronouns (e.g., she, he) within chapters. This may seem awkward as you read, but it prevents half of the parents who read the book from feeling that the text does not apply to their child.

You know your child best. That knowledge, the information in this book, and the advice from forty parents who have been there, will help your family cope with your child’s hospitalization.


Best wishes for a positive hospital experience for you, your child, and your entire family. May your child be prepared well, treated with warmth and kindness, healed of the illness or injury, and home soon.