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Helping Your Child after a Healthcare Experience

Children of all ages often experience pain and stress during and after healthcare experiences. Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. Stress can be caused by pain or by anxiety from changes in normal routines. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between pain and stress. You can help with your child's recovery by learning ways to comfort him/her in addition to giving pain medications as ordered by your physician.

Common fears and stress factors of a healthcare experience

  • Separation from family, home and/or friends
  • Unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells
  • Loss of Control and/or change of routines
  • May have misconceptions about healthcare experience or procedures
  • May have pain, and may fear needles and procedures
  • May feel they are being punished or have done something wrong

Ways your child may show stress or that he/she is in pain

  • Change in normal sleeping patterns
  • Decrease in appetite or difficulty feeding
  • Less interest in playing or normal activities
  • Complaining of pain or prolonged crying
  • Wanting to be still or left alone
  • Restless or difficult to console
  • Holding or protecting areas of discomfort

Getting back to normal once you are home

  • Give prescribed pain medication: For the first day or two give the medicine at set times instead of waiting until the pain is really bad. It is easier to ease pain if it is treated early.
  • Return to normal routines: Be aware of new "habits" that were started in the hospital that you will not want to carry over to the home (letting your child sleep in the same room, staying home with your child all the time, doing tasks your child normally does alone…)
  • Create a safe and comfortable environment: Play soft music, dim lights and provide times for uninterrupted sleep.
  • Give choices when possible: This will help your child feel more in control of his/her recovery. (Example: let your child choose what type of juice to drink when taking medicine.)

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/2009