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Tips for Hospitalized Adolescents

Play in the hospital makes the hospital environment less scary and more child-friendly.  It also encourages children and adolescents to focus on activity, rather than on their illness or injury. 

At WakeMed, we know children and adolescents are constantly learning and developing. Engaging in activities and socializing with others helps the growth and development process continue while in the hospital. 

Always remember, Child Life Specialists are trained in teaching children and adolescents about medical procedures and helping them cope. They are a resource for you and your family.

Activities for adolescents

  • Peer groups and spending time with friends is extremely important.
  • Cell phones and the internet are common means of keeping in touch with friends.
  • Adolescents enjoy watching movies and playing videogames.

Social interactions

  • Self-esteem is largely influenced by peer acceptance.
  • Adolescents are sometimes moody and emotional; this can often be perceived as being uncooperative and defiant.
  • Adolescents are experimenting with social roles and exploring different identities.
  • They are often hesitant to express feelings and/or fears about being in the hospital.

Common stressors and fears for adolescents in the hospital

  • Separation from peer group, loss of peer acceptance and fear of rejection
  • Loss of independence and control
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Fear of change in body image/appearance
  • Fear of death or disability
  • Concerns of keeping up with schoolwork or getting back to school

What you can do to help while your adolescent is in the hospital

  • Honest preparations for procedures and surgery is imperative for this age group. Let them know if any procedures or medicines will change the way their bodies look or work
  • Involve adolescents in medical decision-making and choices about their care.
  • Anticipate any questions that your teen may have because these will not always be expressed.
  • Advocate for privacy whenever possible (pulling curtain, wearing own pajamas instead of hospital gown).
  • If it's okay with the patient, encourage friends to visit as often as possible.
  • Bring favorite activities or watch a movie together in the hospital.