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Common Questions Kids Ask When A Baby Is In The NICU

Having a child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a difficult time, not just in the parents’ life but also for the big brother/sister to be. Young children are always curious, especially when it comes to things that affect their parents.

Here are 5 common questions that your young one may ask while your family navigates through the NICU: 1. Did I cause my brother or sister to be born sick/early? Why did this happen? When seeing the baby in the NICU, your child could feel guilty that they might have said or done something to put the baby in there, especially if they were not excited about a new baby joining the family. Knowing that it is not their fault is more important than knowing the medical reasoning behind why the child is in the NICU.

What to say: “This is not anyone’s fault, especially yours. Sometimes babies come out early/get sick. Mommy/Daddy and the doctors will do everything we can to make sure your sibling is growing happy and healthy.” 2. Are you mad at me? Did I make you sad? Young children tend to think that they are the source of why the parents are upset. They have a hard time grasping and understanding that they are not the main cause of what is happening. The child needs to be reassured that they are not the cause of their parents’ emotions. What to say: “Mommy/Daddy are not upset or angry with you. It’s sad for mommy/daddy to see your baby brother/sister in the hospital instead of being at home. Some days will be harder than others, but we will always love you and the baby. And don’t worry, we won’t be sad forever, these feelings are temporary.” 3. Will I get sick like my baby brother/sister? In the world we live in today hearing the phrase “will I catch what that person has?” is very common, especially with kids of school-age. Reassuring kids that it is important to be aware of germs and other viruses, but the baby’s illness is not contagious and cannot be passed on to other people.  What to say: “Baby brother/sister is in the hospital because that is where he/she is going to grow to be strong and healthy, but it is not the type of germs that you or I can catch from them. We still need to wash our hands beware of germs, but you do not need to worry about getting sick like the baby.” 4. Is the baby in pain? Does it hurt to be hooked up to those machines? When kids go to the doctors or hospital, they are usually sick or in pain, so this is a common question for little one’s with siblings in the NICU to ask. In addition, all the wires and the noises can be very intimidating. It can be hard explaining why the baby is in the hospital and not home. Parents need to acknowledge the child’s fear but let them know that the doctors and nurses are there to help the baby grow and be healthy. What to say: “Everything that the doctors and nurses are doing is to help the baby. All the tubes help give the baby food and air. It will help them grow and be strong so mommy/daddy can bring the baby home.” 5. What will happen to me when the baby comes home? With any sibling, having a new baby brother/sister can make the sibling feel that mommy and daddy are not going to take care of them any longer. Reassuring the child that they will always be taken care of and that even if baby brother/sister may need more help sometimes, it does not mean that they are loved any less. What to say: “New babies always need extra help in the beginning. When you were a baby, Mommy and Daddy took care of you just as much! It will not be like this forever. Mommy and Daddy love you and the baby equally.” Having a baby in the NICU is a very intense and stressful time for a family. Kids will have questions about parents’ emotions. Reassuring the child that they are okay, their feelings are valid, and that these obstacles are temporary is a great place to start your line of communication.

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