Carolinas HealthCare System

It’s never easy to prepare your child for treatment for a heart condition. Depending on their age, many children may not understand what is wrong with them or what the treatment entails.

At the Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC, our physicians and medical specialists help prepare you for your child’s treatment. Our child life specialists are trained to provide psychosocial and emotional support for hospitalized children, helping explain hospital procedures and treatments in age-appropriate ways.

There are also steps mom and dad can take to help prepare your child before treatment begins.

Understanding the Diagnosis

Once you have spoken with your child’s physician, asked all the questions you need and are clear on your child’s diagnosis, it’s time to explain it directly to your little one. Begin by explaining the diagnosis using simple, nonthreatening words, such as, “the doctor will fix the problem.”

If your child is older, encourage him or her to ask you or the physician questions so they understand everything and don’t feel lost or alone in the process.

Managing Fears

Before undergoing treatment, a child may develop a variety of fears. This is normal, and it’s important that you, once again, explain away their fears using simple language and explaining the roles certain physicians, such as an anesthesiologist, will play in their treatment. Always reassure them that you will be right there when they wake up.

Before arriving at the hospital, we recommend the following steps to help ease your child’s fears and be prepared for their upcoming treatment.

  • Start preparing your child several days in advance – For children younger than 6 years old, allow one to two days of preparation. For children ages 12 and older, give them about a week’s notice.
  • Reassure your child that you’ll be with him or her – One of the biggest fears children have is going through the procedure alone. Reassure your child that you will be there every step of the way. If anesthesia is required, remind him or her that you will be there when it’s all over.
  • Allow them to pack their own overnight bag – Make sure to include some favorite and familiar toys and games. For an older child, items such as DVDs and musical devices will help him or her feel more comfortable.
  • Be honest and upfront – For a child older than age 6, be honest about the procedure, but make sure to avoid threatening language that could alarm him or her, such as “being cut open” or “being put to sleep.”
  • Let them ask questions – Teenagers understand more than younger children, but that doesn’t mean they understand everything. Allow them to ask questions of you, a physician or a nurse so they feel involved in their treatment.

If you have any questions or need help preparing your child for treatment, the experienced and specially trained child life specialists at Levine Children’s Hospital can help.

Our KidsHealth Resource Center is a great place for parents and children to start.

Day of Treatment

Making sure your child is comfortable the day of their treatment is important. By bringing books or toys that they like from home, they can gain a sense of normalcy. Older children may want to bring along electronic devices such as music players, tablets or laptops. Be sure to check with a member of the healthcare team before bringing any belongings to the hospital on the day of treatment.