If your child is going to the hospital, here are some things child-life specialists say you can do to make the experience as pleasant as possible:

n Educate yourself about why your child is being hospitalized and what procedures he or she might face.

n Start talking with your child about the stay the number of days in advance equal to your child’s age in years. (A young child doesn’t accurately perceive time, while an older child may need extra time for emotional preparation.)

n Provide honest information using words the child can understand – this helps the child to build trust.

n Include siblings and other relevant family member’s in the planning – siblings need to be prepared, too.

n Before you arrive at the hospital, write down the questions you want to ask the medical staff so that the issues of concern will be addressed.

n Bring favorite stuffed animals or blanket, photo of family or pet, or other comfort items from home to help normalize the environment.

n Bring siblings and other family members to the hospital who are most essential to the support of the patient. Make other arrangements for those who are not.

n Prepare yourself for some “down time” – bring the child’s favorite books, toys and coloring books to help fill some time.

n Visit the hospital’s Web site for additional information prior to your visit.

Source: Ellen Hollon and the child-life staff at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, www.childrens.com

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