Going Home

young child wearing a backpack and holding booksGoing home from the hospital often brings feelings of relief and a sense of returning to "normal life." Whether a hospital stay is long or short, children need some time to adjust to returning home after an illness, procedure, or operation.

While your child may return to daily routines easily, it’s very normal for him or her to need some time to adjust to being home. Often, children don't know how to talk about their feelings. They may express themselves in other ways such as:

  • a change in sleeping or eating patterns
  • more fears than usual (for example, nightmares or fear of being left alone by a parent)
  • increasing irritability (for example, frustration over simple tasks)
  • whining
  • clinging to a parent
  • regression (for example, thumb sucking or loss of toilet training skills)
  • difficulty sharing attention from parents with brothers and sisters
  • aggression (for example, fighting or arguing with brothers and sisters)
  • resisting household rules

To help your child adjust to being home:

  • Spend additional time with your child and give them extra affection and attention during the first week at home.
  • Follow your usual household rules (for example, rules about bedtime, playtime, clean-up, and meals).
  • Return to your usual family routines as soon as possible (for example, at mealtimes and bedtime).
  • Talk in simple language with your child about the hospital stay, procedure, or test.
  • "Play doctor" or "hospital" with your child. Through play, your child may bring up feelings about his or her hospital experience.
  • Invite your child to draw pictures and ask him or her to tell you about them.
  • Talk with your child about his or her dreams or nightmares and offer reassurance and positive information about the hospital.
  • Read books together about going to the doctor or the hospital if your child seems interested. For a list of books, see Helpful Books.

If you feel that you or your child may benefit from working with a counselor, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to meet with the Medical Coping Team.

The Medical Coping Team evaluates, treats, and supports children and families facing hospitalization and other health care concerns. You can make an appointment by calling 617-355-6688. At the clinic, you will meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk over your concerns, ask questions, and learn more about how to help your child.

Back-to-school programs

Boston Children's Hospital's Back to School Program aims to meet the needs of children and their families who are transitioning back to school after treatment for a serious illness. This program is designed to address common concerns that children and families may have about returning to school.

Child Life specialists, pediatric nurses, and social workers develop an individualized program depending on the age and developmental level of the child while taking into consideration the school population and setting. Boston Children's staff work with families and schools to design an optimal back to school program for each child's particular situation.

Read a first-person perspective about RJ Agostinelli's return to school after treatment for leukemia and watch a video of his first day back.

How does the Back to School Program work?

This program may include a phone consultation with the school, an information packet which can be sent to the child's teacher, or a school visit from your child's care team. These visits are designed to alleviate any anxiety the classmates may feel about the child's return and to encourage the sensitivity and support of the child's classmates, teachers, and other school personnel.

Each school visit is arranged with the child's health care team. The team tailors the presentation to the child's classmates and school staff.

During the presentation, we discuss disease, treatment, side effects, and medical procedures and the emotional aspects of having cancer. We also attempt to remove any myths or misconceptions about having cancer.

Our teaching tools vary, depending on the developmental level of the children. Options include:

  • videos
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • puppet shows
  • teaching dolls
  • written materials

Programs offered:

  • visits offered to families living a one- to two-hour drive from Boston Children's Hospital
  • informational packets offered to those families unable to schedule Back to School visits, along with phone consultations
  • consultation with school administrators
  • phone consultations to educate and advocate for educational services with school environment
  • school visit may be available for specific individuals
  • hospital educational services
  • Tutoring is available. Contact Child Life Services for more information (617-355-6551).

For Back to School Program visits:

  • Dialysis and Renal Transplant Program: Johanna Black, MS, CCLS, 617-355-4780
  • Pediatric Transplant Center: Kirsten Fowler, MS, CCLS, 617-355-9635

For consultation with school administrators:

  • Dialysis and Renal Transplant Program: Roberta Hoffman, LICSW, 617-355-8047
  • Kate Quint, LCSW, 617-355-0794

More contacts:

  • Back to School Visits: Children's Hospital 6 West: +1 617-355-8069
  • Back to School Visits: Children's Hospital 6 North: +1 617-355-8066
  • Back to School Visits: Children's Hospital 9 North: +1 617-355-8096
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Jimmy Fund Clinic: +1 617-632-3270
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital, Radiation Oncology: +1 617-732-7629
  • Workshops for School Personnel: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Pediatric Psychosocial Unit: +1 617-632-5909

Camps

These are websites about camps for children with special developmental or medical needs, with either general lists or lists by specific category and camp.