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Tips for Hospitalized School Age Children

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. 

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 school-agers

  • School-aged children like to talk about themselves and their interests.
  • School-agers typically like to play cards, board games and video games.
  • Organized and group play allows for a sense of security.
  • School-aged children are typically highly active (sports, dance, arts).

Social interactions

  • Being with friends is becoming increasingly important.
  • Children at this age begin taking pride in their work and seek recognition for their accomplishments.
  • School-agers are learning to understand others' perspectives.
  • They are learning rules for social cooperation and appropriate behaviors.

Common stressors and fears for school-agers in the hospital

  • Enforced dependence and loss of competence
  • Fear of loss of bodily function
  • Fears of body mutilation
  • Concerns about pain, imminent death or disability
  • Going under anesthesia creates anxiety and raises many questions for many school-agers.

What you can do to help while your school-ager 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.
  • Because a school-ager may be frustrated with being different while in the hospital, emphasize all the things that he/she can do (play games and other activities).
  • Allow choices whenever possible and encourage your child to help make decisions regarding his/her care.
  • Allow children to explore medical equipment, ask questions and rehearse coping techniques.