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10 Tips for Visiting Children in the Hospital

It's not often that a children's minister gets a call to visit a child in the hospital. When you do, it's normally something like removing tonsils, a concussion, stitches or broken bones from a bicycle wreck, etc. And sometimes it's something bigger like major surgery, treatment for the dreaded "c" word, injuries from a car wreck, etc.

And so you head to the hospital to bring encouragement and support.

If you're new at doing hospital visits for children it can be intimidating. You might even feel a bit of nervousness. What should you say to the child? What should you say to the parents? What should you pray about? What verses from God's Word should you share?

Here are 10 tips for visiting children in the hospital.

1. Call the parents and ask when the best time to come visit is. You don't want to show up and they already have a roomful of guests (cousins, aunts, uncles, etc) present.

2. Pray before you go. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment.

3. Go with confidence. You are appointed and anointed for times like these. Know that God is with you and will use you for His glory when you go.

4. Come bearing gifts. Bring a small gift for the child. Make sure the gift is age appropriate. An example - don't bring a teddy bear for a pre-teen boy. And try to stay away from giving anything too complicated for a child who doesn’t feel well (5,000 piece puzzle). Simple is not only good…it’s great.

5. Know what to say depending on the severity of the situation. There are two books that I keep close by when I am preparing to visit a child in the hospital. One is Comforting Children in Crisis and the other one is Children's Ministry Emergency Response Handbook. I have found these books from Group Publishing to be invaluable when walking with families who have a child in the hospital.

Here's another example of tips found in these books.

You visit a child and family who have lost their home due to a fire. The parents and child were able to get out, but have some areas on their body that were burned. Here are some tips on what to say.

"I'm right here to help." (Let the child know that you want help for the long haul.)

"I'm so upset about what happened to your house, but I'm glad everyone is safe." (Don't minimize the traumatic event and offer some positive thoughts.)

"It's no one's fault." (Children may sometimes feel it is their fault. Let them know that is not the case. Accidents, natural disasters and illnesses are forces that the child had nothing to do with and couldn't have prevented.)

"Would you help me make an emergency plan?" (You can calm a child's anxieties by helping him or her contribute to a plan to cope with it).

"Do you need extra time with me?" (Often after an accident or tragedy, kids just need to spend some time with a trusted adult).

6. Know what NOT to say when you visit. The above mentioned books also tell you what you shouldn't say to kids and parents you are visiting in times of sickness or crisis. Here's the example again. You visit a child and family who has lost their home due to a fire. The parents and child were able to get out, but have some areas on their body that were burned.

What not to say:

"You should be grateful. There are children and families who have it worse than you." (It sends a message to the child that he or she never has the right to complain or feel loss).

"This won't happen again." (Avoid making false reassurances that may not be true.)

"It will all be better tomorrow." (Reassure the child without giving false hope.)

"Be brave." (This gives children the impression that their fears are not okay to have.)

"You poor thing, how will you ever get over this?" (Don't feed into their feelings of hopelessness. Give the child hope that things will get better.)

7. Don't overstay your welcome. Keep the visit as brief or as long as needed. Pay attention to the unspoken cues that the parents relay to you.

8. Don't forget to check in with the parents. People often forget to check in on the parents. They are often struggling with exhaustion, insomnia, confusion and fear. Be there for them by being present to their struggle. Just listen - they know you cannot fix things. They just need love.

9. Take someone with you. Do you have a volunteer you are mentoring? Do you have a young person who wants to be a children's minister one day? When appropriate, take them with you on a hospital visit.

10. Pray with the child and his or her parents before you leave. The power of prayer can bring healing, comfort and peace to the child and his/her parents.

Your turn. What are some other tips you have for hospital visits? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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