Can My Child Stay With Me In The Hospital?
Children are usually not allowed to stay overnight with a parent who is an adult patient. However, the hospital may relax the rules if the child is young and the parent will be hospitalized for an extended period.
It can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time when a parent is admitted to the hospital. As a parent, your first thoughts are likely focused on getting better so you can get home to your family. However, having your child visit you in the hospital can actually aid in the healing process for both of you.
Hospital policies vary regarding children visiting ill parents, so it’s important to understand the options available. With some advanced planning and open communication, many hospitals will try to accommodate visits from your child.
Discussing Hospital Stays With Your Child
Before your hospital admission, take time to calmly explain to your child what is happening. Using simple terms appropriate for their age, explain why you are going to the hospital and how long you may need to stay.
Reassure them that the doctors and nurses are going to help you get better. Let them know what to expect when they come to visit, so they aren’t surprised or scared by the equipment and environment. Be honest but avoid graphic details that could make them more worried.
It can also help to have them draw pictures or write cards that can be displayed in your hospital room, so they feel involved even when they aren’t there.
Maintaining communication is key – let them know they can call the hospital to speak with you (if you are able) or a nurse if they have concerns. Knowing they can still connect with you will provide comfort.
Pros and Cons of Children Staying with Ill Parents in the Hospital
Pros of Children Staying with Ill Parents
1. Provides Comfort and Reassurance
Having children present can bring great comfort and reassurance to a hospitalized parent. The familiar presence of kids can ease anxiety and loneliness during an otherwise frightening experience.
Children can provide a sense of normalcy through their laughter, stories, and unconditional love. For a parent faced with health challenges, time with kids can be the best medicine.
2. Fosters Connection and Bonding
Staying with an ill parent allows children to maintain a sense of connection and physical closeness. Reading books together, playing games, or simply holding hands can nurture bonding during the absence of typical daily routines.
Shared time together strengthens attachment and creates cherished memories in the midst of difficult circumstances.
3. Helps Children Understand the Situation
First-hand experience helps children better understand what is happening with their ill parents. Witnessing the hospital environment and medical equipment gives kids a realistic picture versus leaving it up to their imagination.
Age-appropriate explanations from parents and staff provide clarity and ease worries stemming from the unknown.
4. Provides a Chance to Contribute and Help
When staying with an ill parent, children gain an opportunity to actively contribute and help in small but meaningful ways. Kids can assist with minor tasks like bringing a tissue or operating the TV remote.
More importantly, they can simply offer the power of their presence through hugs, kind words, and encouragement.
5. Allows Kids to Be Involved in Care Decisions
Keeping kids present and engaged allows families to involve children in discussions about medical care and treatment options.
Children gain valuable perspective when they can listen, ask questions, and have their thoughts and feelings heard.
Developmentally appropriate inclusion promotes coping, understanding, and a sense of control.
6. Prepares Kids for Potential Health Changes
By being immersed in the hospital setting, children can become familiar with health devices or visible changes in their parents.
This exposure can prepare kids for potential upcoming differences in the parent’s appearance or abilities. Gradual exposure prevents shock that could occur if health changes surface suddenly after discharge.
7. Provides Opportunity for Closure
If a parent’s condition is life-limiting, having children stay at the hospital can be key for cherished final moments together. This time allows parents and kids to share love, say “goodbye,” and find closure. It can bring comfort to all during a devastating loss.
Cons of Children Staying with Ill Parents
1. Risk of Children Being Exposed to Trauma
The unfamiliar sights and sounds of a hospital can be overwhelming or frightening for kids. Children may witness their parents undergoing intense medical exams, in pain, or emotionally distressed. Such experiences – especially without support – have the potential to be traumatic with lasting negative impacts.
2. Compromised Infection Control
Children in a hospital can increase the risk of infections being introduced and spread. Kids are prone to germs from touching surfaces and equipment without proper hand hygiene.
Already vulnerable patients could be exposed to dangerous infections brought in by child visitors.
3. Insufficient Facilities or Resources
Most hospital rooms are not designed to accommodate extra visitors like children. Lack of sleeping space, bathrooms, or basic needs like diapering stations can make visiting very difficult for kids.
Nurses may be too busy to supervise children, leaving safety concerns.
4. Disrupted Hospital Routine and Rest
The presence of energetic children can disrupt the healing environment of rest and stability needed by patients. Kids may have trouble adhering to rules about noise, equipment, and medication access – putting their ill parent and others at risk.
5. Exhaustion and Burnout of Healthy Parent
Caring for an ill spouse and children simultaneously leads to exhaustion for the healthy parent. Overseeing young visitors while providing patient support becomes a major strain. Respite and help from family or friends is essential.
6. Regression in Children’s Behavior
The disruption of hospitalization can cause children to regress or act out. The unfamiliar setting, altered routines, and stress may manifest through bedwetting, tantrums, or withdrawal. Kids need ample support and patience to cope.
7. Exacerbated Worry and Anxiety
Seeing an ill parent can heighten fright, worry or anxiety for sensitive children. Kids may become preoccupied about germs, medical procedures, or the uncertainty of their parent’s prognosis. Close communication and reassurance are critical.
8. Confusion About Medical Equipment
Unfamiliar medical devices seem foreign and mysterious to children. Monitors, IVs, tubes, wounds, and machines may provoke fear or misunderstanding without careful explanation about their purpose. Gradual orientation is key.
9. Interrupted School Attendance and Routines
Hospital visits disrupt children’s school attendance, extracurricular activities, and relationships with peers. Maintaining some routines and connections outside the hospital helps balance and support kids.
10. Feeling Unseen or Unimportant
With the focus on patient care, children can feel ignored or unimportant during hospital visits. Kids need continued warmth and engagement to avoid negative attention-seeking behaviors.
11. Ongoing Separation Anxiety
Lengthy or frequent separations from a hospitalized parent can trigger separation anxiety in children. Behavioral struggles, resistance to school, or sleep problems may surface and persist even after reunification.
Guidelines for Parents Considering Children’s Hospital Visits
- Keep visits brief and structured for younger children under age 6. Prioritize hands-on activities like reading books together.
- Prepare kids beforehand by explaining what they will see and experience. Answer all questions patiently.
- If possible, explore hospital offerings like child life specialists or family rooms to support the unique needs of pediatric visitors.
- Bring comforting objects from home like stuffed animals, blankets, or the patient’s clothing.
- Provide play space with familiar toys and books during longer visits for bored or restless children.
- Take breaks from the bedside for snacks, walks, or other diversions to allow the patient to rest.
- Watch for signs of anxiety in children like avoidance of patient, somatic complaints, or behavioral issues.
- Brief children’s teachers and caregivers to provide additional emotional support and leniency.
- Maintain bedtime routines and schedules as much as possible to promote stability.
- Enlist trusted family or friends for childcare help or respite during lengthy hospitalizations.
- Allow kids to engage in caregiving tasks like drawing get-well cards or picking flowers to foster bonding.
- Cuddle, comfort, and offer frequent praise and reassurance to validate kids’ emotions.
Determining if children should stay with an ill parent in the hospital is a multifaceted, highly personal decision.
While visiting provides many potential benefits like maintaining connection and offering comfort, families must balance this with possible drawbacks such as disrupted routines or confusing experiences for kids.
By carefully considering their unique needs and outlook, parents can make the most informed choice to support their entire family.
Maintaining open communication, providing thoughtful preparation and support, and drawing on hospital resources can optimize the hospital visit to nurture both patients and child visitors.
Understanding Hospital Visitation Policies
Many hospitals have implemented visitation restrictions and protocols due to infections like COVID-19. However, most still aim to accommodate visits from minor children with ill parents. Here are some common hospital policies regarding child visitors:
- Minimum Age Requirements: Some hospitals only allow children above a certain age, usually 12 or 14, to visit patients. This reduces interruptions from very young children.
- Time Limits: Visits may be capped at a certain number of hours per day to allow the patient to rest. Typical time limits range from 15 minutes to 2 hours.
- Number of Visitors: Some hospitals limit the total number of visitors at one time, which may mean only one or two children can visit at once.
- Screening Protocols: Children will likely need to be screened for symptoms of illness before entering the hospital and may need to wear personal protective equipment like masks.
- Isolation Precautions: If the parent is isolated for infection control, there may be strict protocols regarding entering and exiting the room. Virtual visits may be an option.
- Behavior Expectations: Hospitals expect children to remain quiet and avoid touching medical equipment. Disruptive behavior could result in visiting restrictions.
Arranging Child Visits in Advance
Rather than show up and hope for the best, it is advisable to arrange child visits in advance by speaking with hospital staff. Be sure to ask about the specific policies and parameters regarding young visitors. Some recommendations include:
- Call the hospital’s front desk and ask to speak with a charge nurse. Explain your situation and desire for your child to visit.
- Provide your child’s age and relationship, as policies often depend on whether the visitor is a young child or an older teenager.
- Ask when less busy times are so your child’s visit isn’t as chaotic or disruptive to your care.
- See if there are any paperwork requirements, such as release forms, to facilitate a visit.
- Inquire about the best entrances and elevators to use when arriving with your child.
- Request that a hospital volunteer or child life specialist be present during the visit if available. They can help guide your child through the experience.
- If your hospital stay is prolonged, ask if your child can be placed on an approved visitor list. This may make repeat visits easier to coordinate.
Making the Visit Positive for Your Child
The hospital environment can seem alienating or even frightening through a child’s eyes. Here are some tips to make your child feel more comfortable and relaxed when they come to see you:
- Explain equipment. Reassure them that any tubes, wires or machines are there to help you, not hurt you. Let them know it’s ok if they hear beeping sounds.
- Encourage questions. Let them know they can ask you or the nurses anything that’s on their mind. Curiosity is healthy.
- Pack familiar items. Having their favorite book, stuffed animal or blanket provides comfort in an unfamiliar setting.
- Sit close. If permitted, having them sit right next to you maintains physical proximity.
- Smile and laugh. Keep the mood as light as you can by sharing jokes or funny stories.
- Give them “jobs”. Simple tasks like fluffing your pillow or fetching a drink make them feel involved.
- Say, thank you. Express how much even a short visit means to you. Send them home feeling helpful.
Having your child visit you in the hospital while you are ill can truly boost the spirits of both of you. With compassion and care from hospital staff, plus understanding and patience on your part, brief visits are often possible.
Always call ahead to learn your hospital’s specific policies. Explain the situation in age-appropriate language before and after visits. Try to maintain normalcy and positivity during the visit. With preparation and communication, a child’s visit can be an incredibly uplifting experience.