Chapter 1: Should children visit the ICU?

Helping families decide

Additional Videos
Is it appropriate to bring a child to the ICU?(3:22)Video transcript

 “I've approached bringing a child to ICU as a collective conversation and decision. I’ll include our social worker to navigate through this decision with the families”. – ICU Physician

 For parents, it can be very difficult to decide if they should bring a child to the ICU.  Many families will turn to you when looking for answers to the question, “Should I bring my child to the ICU”?


Children will imagine the worst

How children may feel about being included

Click on the arrows to view some ways children may feel when they are included in the decision to visit their loved one in ICU as well as some of the benefits.

Common impacts of not bringing children to the bedside

Click on each one for more information.

Increased anxiety and ambiguity

Children will use their vivid imaginations to fill in the blanks and will often imagine the worst. “It must be really bad if they think it’s too scary for me”.

Feeling helpless

Children often have things to do, say, or bring for the person; or they may simply want to spend time with them.

Feeling isolated

Children may feel they’re not important enough to be included. They may worry that the person doesn’t want to see them. This may increase their feelings of being alone, rejected, or missing the person.

Decreased trust

When children feel that some things are being kept from them, they may behave similarly and start keeping their thoughts or feelings from others.

Click on each item for more detail

When a child doesn’t want to visit

A visit to the ICU should never be forced. Alternatively, children can stay connected through phone calls, sending art and letters, or being in the building but not coming into the patient’s room.

Why families may not want children to visit

There may be times families may think it is best for the child not to visit the patient. Some of these reasons may include:

1. The child may be currently coping with another serious trauma (perhaps they recently lost another parent or family member).

2. They may be visually hypersensitive and seeing the patient in ICU may traumatize them.

3. The patient themselves may request that the child not visit them at this stage.

As previously mentioned, children can still stay connected with the patient through the phone, face time etc without physically visiting the patient in ICU.

It is important to respect the family’s and the patient’s decision whether it is to allow or not allow the child to visit the patient.