The hospital – particularly ICU or the burn unit where patients are in serious condition – can seem large, cold, and scary for children; they might not know how to process everything when they see a parent or other loved one with bandages, under sedation, hooked up to an IV, etc. If your children will be visiting a family member at the burn care unit of the hospital, there are some things you can do to prepare your child so you can make your children’s hospital experience positive.

How can I prepare my child for the hospital visit?

Some parents might try to shelter their children about the burned loved one’s condition so that they do not worry. However, being upfront and explaining what the patient’s condition is like can help alleviate a lot the child’s anxiety. “Preparation is the key. Information helps the child feel they have more control over the situation,” explains Amy Clark, CCLS, child life specialist at Spectrum Health Care.

Here are a few things you can do to help prepare your child for the visit to the burn unit of the hospital:

  • Share some of the things they might notice are different about the loved one. Explain what to expect about things you know might frighten your child. (e.g., The fire burned a lot of Mommy’s hair, or Daddy has a tube in his mouth and has a lot of medicine in his body, so he will not be able to talk much.)
  • Think of the five senses when you prepare your child for the visit. Tell your child what he might see, smell, feel, taste, and hear.
  • Remember that your child will feed off of your emotions. If you act anxious and uncomfortable, your child will pick up on that and react similarly.
  • Show your child pictures of machines she might see at the hospital and why the hospital may need to use them for the loved one. (That machine is giving Mom liquid food because she cannot eat right now.)
  • Keep in mind that kids often mishear or misunderstand hospital words and may not understand the gravity of the situation.
  • Kids want to be helpful, just like adults too. Suggest things your child can do to help the loved one, such as bringing a card or gift, making a poster to hang in the hospital room, or bringing the patient’s favorite music from home.

Are there any other resources to reduce my child’s fears?

If you are concerned about how your child will react to seeing their other parent or family member with severe burn injuries, you can ask the burn care unit if it has any onsite staff that can help. Some burn units have child specialists who can help explain the patient’s injuries to the child in an age-appropriate way. They often use dolls to show children what they might see, such as bandages, tubes, etc. so that what they see does not shock them.

For information about legal options after a burn accident (if someone else’s negligence caused the burn), you are welcomed to contact us. Our lawyer referral specialists will be glad to connect you with a lawyer who can answer your questions and help with your legal case. Call 844-549-8774.