Suggestions for visitors

Age of visitors

Find out the hospital policy on visits by brothers and sisters. Children too young to visit can communicate by telephoning, making drawings, sending cards, or recording tapes.

Describe the hospital

Describe your child's room, including equipment such as IV lines and poles, monitors, and catheters. Imitate noises made by machines. Describe what your child's day is like. Describe what brothers and sisters will see and hear during a visit, and who they will meet. Use familiar words for younger children. Interpret medical terms for older children.

Describe your child

Lessen the shock of the first visit by describing how your injured child looks and behaves. Let brothers and sisters know if he has pain, what is being done to control it, and how medications affect him. (For example, "Jason cries sometimes because it hurts when he tries to move." Or "Donna is real sleepy because of the medicine they gave her for pain. It makes her tired, but more comfortable.") Changes in behavior and emotion can be upsetting for visitors. Prepare them for how the injury has affected these areas. (For example, "Tom swears a lot and gets mad quickly. It doesn't mean he's mad at you. He can't help it because of the brain injury, so don't take it personally.")

Take photos

Pictures of your child in the hospital can prepare visitors. This also gives you a visual record of your child's progress. It helps others understand what you and your child are going through. Disposable cameras are inexpensive and can be carried easily.

Ask questions

Before visiting, give brothers and sisters a chance to ask questions. Then sit down afterward, and talk about their feelings and answer questions. Ask what they would like to do about visiting again—when, how often, for how long.

Meet with your child's friends

Friends need guidance about what to expect, how long to stay, and how much noise and activity your child can handle. It may be hard for friends to understand changes in your child's memory, thinking, and behavior if her physical appearance looks good. They need guidance on how to respond to behaviors and emotions affected by the injury.