Explaining Cancer to Children: Hospital Visits

A general rule: If the child wants to visit a sick parent or grandparent, and the hospital staff says okay, it’s usually good for both the child and the parent or grandparent.

Here is a quick list of considerations to help you decide whether the child should visit:

-    Does the child want to go?
-    Does the sick parent or grandparent want a visit?
-    Can the sick parent or grandparent tolerate a visit, medically? (Please consult with a doctor or nurse about this)
-    Will the hospital permit a visit by a minor child? Be sure to check hospital regulations, then talk to the staff if you need to make special arrangements.

There are generally two kinds of visits and they are very different:
-    Visits to critical care units
-    Visits to non –critical care units

Preparing children to visit critical-care units:
-    Prepare them at home for what they will see
-    Use drawings and photographs to make them familiar
-    Help them understand that they might feel new or increased emotions during the visit
-    Three key points to remember

  1. It is the child’s visit
  2. Plan exactly what will happen (whenever possible)
  3. Keep the visit brief

-    If the child decides not to visit be prepared for the child to be guilty and come up with a token that can be taken to the hospital from them (poem, drawing, pictures)

Preparing children to visit non-critical-care areas of the hospital:
-    Explain the rules before you go (for your family and if there are specific rules in the hospital)
-    Come up with things to do at their bedside

Remember to make the visit a good one:
-    Prepare your child for what he or she will experience
-    Give your child specific  jobs or activities to do during the visit (decorate a wall, telling the sick parent or grandparent about something from home or school)
-    Explain the kinds of emotions, fear, sorrow, that people may have when they visit the hospital