Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

Looking at hospitalization through a child’s eyes

From toddlers to teens, you can help to ease your child’s fear of hospitalization.

Scared girl at hospital

Younger than age 3

Your child’s greatest concern is being away from you. Being with your child as much as possible during the hospital stay will make your child feel more secure. Younger children, especially those under age 3, often think that going to the hospital is a punishment for misbehavior. Emphasize that this is not the case. Encourage your child to express fears and concerns. Explain, in a way that the child can understand, why the hospital stay is necessary.

Ages 4 to 6

Children in this age group fear damage to their bodies. Be careful when explaining what will take place. Avoid phrases that may have different meanings to a child. For example, your child may associate being put to sleep (when you explain surgical anesthesia) with a pet and think that he or she will die. Instead, say: The doctors will help you take a nap for a few hours, or another appropriate phrase. When talking about surgery say, make an ‘opening,’ instead of ‘cut.’

Ages 6 to 12

Children older than 6 will worry about losing control as well as damage to their bodies. Your child may also worry about doing or saying embarrassing things while under anesthesia. Be open. Don’t deny that there will be pain after an operation, if this is the case. Explain that although it will hurt for a while, he or she will be made to feel as comfortable as possible.


Teenagers are often reluctant to ask questions, leading you to believe that they understand more than they actually do. Encourage your teenager to ask the doctors and nurses questions about his or her condition. Include your child in discussions about the care plan for an increased feeling of control.

Provided by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

About The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Today, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one of the leading pediatric hospitals and research facilities in the world. Our 150 years of innovation and service to our patients, their families and our community reflect an ongoing commitment to exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare providers and pioneering significant research initiatives.

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.