Age-appropriate conversations with your child about surgery can help to alleviate any fear or concerns. The following guidelines are specifically designed to help you talk with your child about surgery in a way he or she can understand. Our staff is also available to help you at any time.
Infant/Toddler (0-3 years old)
Infants and toddlers can stress by sensing their parents' stress. They may show stress by crying or acting out. They are easily stressed by new people, new environments and new medical equipment. Bringing familiar toys, blankets, stuffed animals or other comfort items can be helpful. The best thing you can do to comfort your child is to hold him or her and stay calm.
Preschool Children (3-5 years old)
Children in this age group may not understand what is happening. Your child may have picked up some information from listening during office visits. They may know that they are having "surgery," but they most likely will not be able to fully understand. You can help by answering their questions with clear, simple, honest answers. Tell your child you will be there-that is usually the most comforting thing your child can hear.
School-Age Children (6-11 years old)
School-age children understand what having surgery means and may be fearful of the experience. You can help by explaining things ahead of time and preparing them using words they can understand. Using soft, child-friendly words such as sore instead of pain or poke instead of shot will help ease anxiety. Reassure them you will be with them as much as possible, and let them bring comfort items (stuffed animals, blankets, pillows) with them to the hospital. Hospital tours are particularly helpful for this age group.
Older Children (12-18 years)
Older children may understand the reason for the surgery. However, whether or not they admit it, they may still be nervous. Encourage your child to talk with you about concerns or fears and to ask questions. Put them at ease by sharing correct information or speaking with staff together to get the answers they need.
Parents and Guardians
Surgery can be just as stressful for you as it is for your child. The unfamiliar setting, concern for your child and lack of sleep can take their toll. Rely on a spouse or close support person to help you, and rely on us for help whenever you need it.