Looking after yourself

We know that life can be stressful when your child isn’t well or is in hospital. We realise that for some parents, hospitals can be scary and threatening places.

As well as looking after your child, we care about how you are doing too. Although you may find it hard to think about your own needs, try to look after yourself so you are better able to cope with the stresses and strains of life with a child in hospital.

In addition, as children’s responses are influenced by the responses of their parents, the better you are coping, the more it will help your child to cope.

Take a break

The wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) are busy places and it is easy to forget the time and spend 24 hours a day next to your child.

While we encourage you to spend time with your child, it will do you good to get away for a while, to get some fresh air, or something to eat and drink. Just going for a walk around the block can help ‘blow away some cobwebs’ and help you feel a bit more refreshed.

Looking after your health

When people are feeling stressed or upset, they may turn to cigarettes and alcohol to help. These may help on a short-term basis but never improve things in the long term. Remember that smoking and drinking alcohol are not allowed on hospital property. If you feel out of control and need help, tell us.

Share the load

When your child is in hospital, all your relatives and friends will want to know how he or she is doing. This can be very draining, especially if you have lots of people to ring, and expensive too. Some parents have found it helpful to nominate one person who will pass on news to everyone else. This means you only have one phone call to make and you do not have to repeat the same thing over and over again.

Be involved

Some parents tell us that they feel 'left out' when their child is in hospital as they are not their child’s main carer anymore. At GOSH, you are a valued member of the team caring for your child. We want you to be involved as much as possible in your child’s daily care, doing everyday things like washing and feeding your child, changing his or her nappy or playing games.

Remember that although the doctors and nurses are experts in caring for children who are ill, you are the expert in your child. You have the best knowledge of how he or she usually behaves, what he or she likes or dislikes and how to offer comfort when upset. Please tell the ward team any important information you think they should know about caring for your child.

Ask questions

Asking questions is always important. You need to know what is happening to your child so that you can carry on caring for him or her while you are in hospital and once you go home. Your child’s nurse is probably the first point of contact for any questions.

If you want to see your child’s doctor, please ask the nurse to arrange this. It is not always possible for the doctor to come immediately, especially if he or she is in clinic or the operating theatre.

Writing down questions and thoughts can help you remember things at a time when you may have lots of different things on your mind. Carry a notebook with you and write things down as you think of them, so when you speak to your child’s nurse or doctor, you will have a note with you.

If you don’t remember everything we tell you, please ask us to repeat it again. We won’t mind, as we want you to understand what is happening with your child.


Talking about your experiences can be a great release. If you have a partner or family member with you in hospital, make time to have a chat about how the day has gone.

Remember that everyone deals with stress in a different way, so don’t be upset if your partner or other family members are not affected by the same things as you.

Support organisations can be very helpful and the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) can put you in touch with a relevant organisation.