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Helping Your Child Cope | Overview

Families can help in many ways to make their child's transition and hospital stay as easy as possible. It is completely normal for a child to show lots of different feelings and act differently when in the hospital. Your child's treatment team will help you support your child, but here are some tips:

Acknowledge your child's distress

Support your child in making this difficult transition. Reassure your child that they will be in the hospital for as short a period of time as possible. The average hospital stay at the Inpatient Psychiatry Service is about two weeks, but this is highly variable depending on your child's needs. Their stay can range from a few days to several weeks.

Remind your child that their ability to talk about troubles and work with staff is the best way to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible. Avoid promising when your child can leave the hospital.

Make your child comfortable

During the hospitalization, it is reassuring to have some familiar belongings from home. You can bring several changes of comfortable clothes and pajamas, toiletries, a comforter, and pillows. Younger children may want to bring a few favorite toys or stuffed animals. Teens may want to bring a radio or CD player. It's also acceptable to bring books, journals, and pictures of family and friends.

Due to safety concerns, any electronics should be battery operated rather than having a power cord. Any pictures should be unframed, because metal and glass frames are not allowed.

Plan visits and transitions

Let your child know when you will be leaving and when you will return to the hospital. Younger or anxious children may need additional support to cope with caregivers coming and going. If your child is having a particularly difficult time saying good-bye, staff can help you develop a separation plan and they can spend time with your child as you leave the unit.

It is also helpful to plan phone call times to check in with your child during the day. Staff can help you identify the best times to call when your child is not participating in a group or meal.

Discuss treatment decisions with your child

Your child should understand that you are an important member of their treatment team and that you are actively involved in decisions affecting their care. Discuss team recommendations for medication or behavioral changes with your child so that they are assured that you are involved in treatment decisions.