Many parents know what it’s like to have a baby or toddler stay in the hospital, or have had a friend or relative in that situation. Sometimes, the hospital stay is a long one, and the transition back to home, daycare or preschool can be a challenge. So how can you help with that transition? Sara Elton is a Child Life Specialist at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. She has some tips on how to make baby’s transition from the hospital a smooth one.
Involve siblings - Involving siblings, friends and neighbors can help make it the transition easier for everyone.
Before visiting the hospital:
- Take pictures of the hospital room and equipment and share it with siblings and upcoming visitors. This helps to familiarize children and visitors with medical equipment that can be overwhelming and threatening when seen for the first time.
At the hospital:
- Help siblings decorate the hospital room with pictures of the family, artwork, etc. --- This normalizes the environment, decreases stress, helps siblings feel included in the hospital visits, and helps to maintain and build the patient/sibling relationship throughout an extended hospital stay.
- If siblings are unable to visit, you can face time
- Send kids home with a doctor’s bag to play with at home to help understand why the baby is in the hospital to process their feelings through play.
Before baby comes home:
- Take a picture of the baby’s medical equipment that will come home with baby and share the photo and information with siblings, friends and neighbors.
- Help siblings decorate the room to welcome baby home
Prepare friends, neighbors, preschool communities
- If you have a neighborhood or daycare newsletter, announce when your child is coming home, and what precautions to take around them (no sick visitors, wash hands, etc.)
- If there’s a traumatic injury, inform people the child may look different while healing. Consider sharing a picture.
- Talk about how it's okay for us to have differences.
- At school, the teacher could play a game or read a children's book to lead into that discussion.
- Plan to celebrate holidays after you get home (a late visit from Santa, for example)
How to help others (during and after the hospital stay)
- Help family with carpooling
- Give siblings time and attention
- Give parents a break
- Help with errands