Helping Children Cope With Hospital Realities

The neonatal intensive care unit at Parkland Hospital in Dallas is full of children -- patients and visitors.

Children as young as 3 years old are now allowed to visit their siblings in the NICU.

"They know that it's a safe place, and that it's a good place, and it's helping their babies," said Meredith Long, one of several Child Life Specialists at Parkland.

Long stays with the children throughout their visits to answer questions they might have about their baby brother or sister.

"They are wondering the same things their parents wonder, but they're brave enough and honest enough to ask them all," she said.

The children also attend special classes where they learn about what happens in the NICU.

They even receive a photograph of their baby brother or sister so they know what to expect when they visit them for the first time. 

The program is more than a chance for children to meet the newest member of their family, Long said. It is part of an effort to provide care to the entire family under difficult circumstances.

"The parents cope better because they're not worried about their baby and their 5 year old," Long said.

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