This paper describes parents' experiences of participation in their hospitalized child's care on a general surgical paediatric ward. The findings indicate that parents chose to participate because of concern for the child's emotional welfare. Influencing factors included sense of parental duty, past experiences with hospitals, and concern for consistency of care. Parents' readiness to care was encouraged by a supportive family network, support from other parents, familiarity and experience with care. Parents were willing to adapt their parenting skills in order to be able to care for their child at home and were willing to perform more care provided it did not cause pain for the child, had the nurses' approval and increased their confidence and competence as carers. Lack of information, non-negotiation of roles, inadequate facilities, feelings of anxiety and loneliness were the difficulties parents experienced.