Staying Calm When Your Toddler’s in the ER

It’s impossible to prepare for everything as a parent. But sometimes, thinking through hypothetical situations can help you feel more prepared if something were to happen. If your toddler had to go to the emergency room, how would you remain calm? Here are a few tips for how to respond as a parent when you’re in the emergency room with your child.

The Scenario: An IV Is Needed for Dehydration

Imagine that your 3-year-old child has been sent by your provider to the emergency room for treatment of dehydration. The nurse is coming into their room to start an IV.  When your child sees the nurse, they get anxious and look to you. How do you respond?

  1. Cry as the child receives the IV.
  2. Tell the child the mean nurse will be done soon.
  3. Say, “It’s ok, it’s ok” over and over while nervously pulling your child into your lap.
  4. Smile at your child and touch them in a comforting way.

Now, you may think that this scenario is over-dramatized, but as a provider for over 20 years, I can tell you that all four of these responses are common!

Being in an unfamiliar setting and worrying about your child and their medical condition can certainly be upsetting. But in this scenario, it’s very important to remember that your child is watching you, and can sense your emotions. It’s really important to take your own emotional inventory and be able to keep any anxiety or distress in check.

Compose Yourself, If Needed

If you really can’t stop yourself from crying, it’s probably best to leave the bedside for a few minutes, get those tears out and then come back being able to support your child.

Focus on Your Child

In this scenario, your child is looking to you for emotional guidance- how upset or worried should I be?  Be calm, try to express confidence and focus on how to help your child. This will keep you in “parenting mode” to be able to appropriately support your child. Your own emotional distress will spill over to your child if you let it, and make a very challenging situation for them even worse.

Express Confidence

Express confidence to your child and reassure them. Tell them that they will be OK and can handle whatever happens. Children’s strength in these situations is surprising to many parents!

When your child needs emergency care, it can be very upsetting. Being prepared and focusing on being a support to your child can go a long way to making a challenging situation easier.

Amy Spangler, CNP, is a certified nurse practitioner at ProMedica Urgent Care for Kids, located in Perrysburg.