Going home from the hospital often brings feelings of relief and a sense of returning to "normal life." Whether a hospital stay is long or short, children need some time to adjust to returning home after an illness, procedure or operation.
While your child may return to daily routines easily, it’s very normal for him or her to need some time to adjust to being home. Often, children don't know how to talk about their feelings. They may express themselves in other ways such as:
- a change in sleeping or eating patterns
- more fears than usual (for example, nightmares or fear of being left alone by a parent)
- increasing irritability (for example, frustration over simple tasks)
- clinging to a parent
- regression (for example, thumb sucking or loss of toilet training skills
- difficulty sharing attention from parents with brothers and sisters
- aggression (for example, fighting or arguing with brothers and sisters)
- resisting household rules
To help your child adjust to being home
- Spend additional time with your child and give them extra affection and attention during the first week at home.
- Follow your usual household rules (for example, rules about bedtime, playtime, clean-up and meals).
- Return to your usual family routines as soon as possible (for example, at mealtimes and bedtime).
- Talk in simple language with your child about the hospital stay, procedure or test.
- "Play doctor" or "hospital" with your child. Through play, your child may bring up feelings about his or her hospital experience.
- Invite your child to draw pictures and ask him or her to tell you about them.
- Talk with your child about his or her dreams or nightmares and offer reassurance and positive information about the hospital.
- Read books together about going to the doctor or the hospital if your child seems interested. For a list of books, see Helpful Books.
If you feel that you or your child may benefit from working with a counselor, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to meet with the Medical Coping Team.
The Medical Coping Team evaluates, treats and supports children and families facing hospitalization and other health care concerns. You can make an appointment by calling 617-355-6688. At the clinic, you will meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk over your concerns, ask questions and learn more about how to help your child.