The examination of both parents' and nurses' expectations and attitudes towards parental participation in the care of ill children in a community hospital, non-specialty setting was undertaken in this exploratory, qualitative research study within Australia. First, in this triangulated research study, 14 in-depth interviews with parents were carried out about their participation in the care of their ill children. Content analysis revealed that the four main themes were to do with parental factors including control, expectations, support and emotion; communication; the importance of being with your child; and the fact that mothers do the mothering and nurses do the nursing. Two focus group sessions were held with paediatric nursing staff. Content analysis confirmed real communication problems between nurses and parents. Implications that arose for nursing practice were for in-service workshops to improve communication between nurses and families as well as workshops to prepare students of university nursing programmes offering paediatric electives.