Even though it’s been months since she’s seen the inside of a hospital, our daughter is still constantly processing her feelings and anxiety after being hospitalized last summer, and it seems like it will be ongoing as she grows older and continues to see doctors and specialists. By far, her most frequent question when we talk about someone being in the hospital or discuss an upcoming visit to a physician is: “Will the nurses be there with masks on?” In her little mind, she equates nurses with masks to pain and discomfort – blood draws, IV insertion, blood pressure readings, shots.
And so the process is perpetual, with conversations about how the doctors and nurses and machines at the hospital help our bodies get better. For Brenna, the two most effective ways of processing these experiences are pretend play with our doctor toy kit – pretending to be the nurse and the doctor to her sick stuffed animals – and reading books.
When she was actually in the hospital, we read several books about being sick many, many times a day, and I think it helped her feel less alone to read about some of her favorite characters also being in the hospital. We’ve also read some great books to Connor about having a loved one who is sick.
If you are wanting to read more about these experiences to your own kids, here are some of our favorite books about the hospital or doctor for a child who is a patient:
- A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital. Grover needs to have an operation, so he and a couple of his friends tour the hospital to learn more about his surgery and hospital stay. We read this at least 17 times a day when Brenna was hospitalized, and she still talks about it. Some parts are a bit outdated, but most of the information is still true, and it is very positive and educational.
- Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital by Virginia Dooley. This is a shorter book, which is great for younger kids like Brenna. Some of the books about hospitalizations are much too long and detailed for toddlers and preschoolers. I appreciated in this book about a young boy who has an operation to have tubes in his ears that he talks about feeling sick and throwing up after his operation. I think it’s helpful for kids to realize that not everything is “easy” about being sick and sometimes it may take some time before you feel better.
- Katie Goes to the Hospital by Barbara Taylor Cork. This is Brenna’s favorite book about being in the hospital, besides reading about Grover’s visit. It is short and an easy read, but covers all of the basics about what happens at the hospital and how you may feel.
- Do I Have to Go to the Hospital? by Pat Thomas. I thought this book did a good job explaining that the hospital staff is there to make everyone better, even when things may be uncomfortable or frightening. It also discussed many comforting things for a child while hospitalized, such as having a parent with you and playing with toys from the hospital playroom.
- Harry Goes to the Hospital by Howard J. Bennett. In this book, a little boy has to go to the emergency room and then is hospitalized with a severe case of the stomach flu. What I liked about this story is that it was an illness that the boy wasn’t prepared for, unlike a surgery, because many hospitalizations do happen as a result of an acute health problem that isn’t planned and previously discussed. I think it’s important for kids to know what an emergency room is like, too, because there is a good chance they may have to go to one at some point.
- When You’re Sick or in the Hospital by Tom McGrath. This book focuses on the emotional side of hospitalizations for kids, which is a unique and much-needed vantage point as compared to some of the other books. It discusses all kinds of emotions a child may feel and encourages the child to ask lots of questions and talk about how they’re feeling.
And here are some of our favorite books for a child with a sibling who is hospitalized:
- Noah’s Garden: When Someone You Love Is in the Hospital by Mo Johnson. This is a wonderful book about a little boy who plays at the hospital playground/garden area while his sister is hospitalized. It is light-hearted and positive, and we read it many times to Connor when he was 2 or 3 years old after Brenna was born. It’s a fantastic read for young kids.
- When Molly Was in the Hospital by Debbie Duncan. This book is a little longer, so probably best suited for siblings maybe 5 and up, but it’s a comforting read and explores many emotions and reactions that a sibling may be experiencing.
What About Me?: When Brothers and Sisters Get Sick by Allan Peterkin. I got a little emotional reading this book, about a little girl whose younger brother gets sick and is hospitalized, leaving her confused and upset that no one is paying attention to her but only asking about and talking about her brother. I think it would be really helpful to read this book with kids 4 and up to open conversations about how they’re feeling when they have a sick sibling.Reading these books has really helped Brenna (and Connor) to work through some emotions they have experienced with so many trips to the hospital and doctors’ offices. Are there any that you would add to the list from your own experiences?
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