Admission to the hospital early in the morning, immediately before the planned procedure or surgery, is common, but this step affords little time for a child to adjust to the new environment. Ask the authorities if your child can visit the hospital a day or two before scheduled surgery to help him understand what will happen. All children should be told ahead of time what to expect, but very young children may not possess a clear concept of time, such as tomorrow or next week, so that a review of what is going to happen, just before it occurs, can help children overcome their fears.
Children often demonstrate their understanding of the world through the medium of play. You may get an opportunity to reassure your child if you observe misconceptions about the hospital in his play. Many progressive hospitals offer children a playroom, so that they can relax, even when they are in hospital. Some hospitals even allow them to tour a 'mock' operation theatre; and wear nurses' uniforms and doctors' masks, so that they are more comfortable in a hospital setting. After hospitalization, play can be a very beneficial way for young children to make sense of their experiences. Reading aloud children's stories about hospitals before and after your child's stay also can be helpful. Most hospitals encourage parents or close relatives to stay overnight with their child. A parent or family member can provide security in the unfamiliar and somewhat disorienting world of the hospital. Stay with younger children, especially, as much as possible. If you need to leave, it is best to be factual with your child about where you will be, why you need to go, and when you plan to return.