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Helping Kids Get Ready for Surgery

Kids who need to have surgery may feel stressed about it. They may have a lot of questions. Knowing what to expect and having their questions answered can help them feel more comfortable.

How Can Parents Help?

To support and help your child:

  • Talk to the surgery team about what will happen before, during, and after the surgery. Get answers to any questions you have. Encourage your child to ask the team questions too. 
  • Answer your child’s questions honestly, using language that’s right for their age. Younger children usually need fewer details than older kids. If you don’t know the answer, tell your child you will find out. Or, ask if they want to find out together. Questions they may have include:
    • Will it hurt?
    • Will I be asleep during the operation?
    • Can you be with me?
    • Will I get a needle?
    • Do I have to stay in the hospital after the surgery?
  • If the hospital has a child life specialist, ask your child if they would like to meet with them. A child life specialist is specially trained to talk to kids in a comforting, informative way.
  • For younger kids, read books together about going to the hospital. The surgery team can recommend some that are written for kids your child’s age.
  • Accept your child’s feelings. Let them know that it’s OK to feel scared and even mad. Offer extra hugs and tell your child you will be with them before and after the surgery.
  • Younger children may want to bring a special animal or blanket to the hospital. Tell your child you will keep it for them during surgery and give it back as soon as the surgeon says it’s OK.
  • If your child needs to stay in the hospital, help them plan for things to do while recovering. When they feel well enough, your child might want to watch videos, listen to music, use a cellphone or other device, or have visitors.

What Else Should I Know?

By taking care of yourself, you can better support your child. Be willing to accept help from family and friends. Try to eat right and get enough sleep. If your child has a serious condition or major surgery, it can help to talk to a psychologist, social worker, or counselor to help you work through your feelings.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: 20-01-2022

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