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Tips to Support Your Child before Surgery | HealthFocus SA

Preparing for Your Child’s Visit to the Hospital

Your child is scheduled for surgery, but you’re not sure where to begin to start to prepare them. Here are some tips that can help you navigate this journey. 

Be honest with your child about their upcoming surgery. Your child may be nervous or scared prior to their hospital visit. Using honest, age appropriate language is the best way to prepare your child for this experience. 

Validate your child’s feelings about their upcoming surgery. Whether they are feeling nervous or excited, allow your child to express their emotions prior to coming to the hospital. This can lead to discussions about possible misconceptions and questions that your child may have.

Encourage discussions with your child about their upcoming surgery and help them write questions down that they may have about their procedure. It is helpful to write any questions or concerns down so they can be addressed on the day of surgery. 

Allow your child to pick a comfort item or favorite toy from home as you prepare for their hospital visit. When children are able to choose their own comfort items, it allows them to feel included in the experience and offers them a sense of control.

Self-Care is an important part of your hospital visit. In order to care for your child, make sure your own needs are being met. This includes getting quality sleep and making sure not to skip meals.

Don’t be hesitant to reach out to family and friends for support.

Tips to Prepare Your Baby Before Surgery

  • Bring a few of your baby’s favorite blankets or toys with them to the hospital
  • Prepare for your baby and family routines to be disrupted (sleep, eating, etc.)
  • Comfort and distract your baby if there is a fasting period before the procedure
  • Swaddle
  • Pacifier
  • Soothing music/toys
  • Holding/rocking
  • Request a Child Life specialist for additional support and coping needs

Tips to Prepare Your Toddler or Preschooler (2-5 years)

  • Talk to your child about their upcoming procedure, the day before surgery 
  • Explain the procedure and the hospital environment using simple, honest language
  • Reassure them that their procedure is for their health
  • Engage in medical play using a doctor kit and stuffed animal to help familiarize them with the procedure
  • Request a Child Life specialist for additional support and coping needs

Tips to Prepare Your School-Age Child (6-12 years)

  • Depending on your child’s developmental needs, prepare them about 3-5 days prior to their procedure
  • Explain the procedure and the hospital environment using age appropriate, honest language
  • Listen to their questions and concerns, and write any unanswered questions down to be addressed on the day of surgery 
  • Read age-appropriate books about hospitals and surgery with your child
  • Request a Child Life specialist for additional support and coping needs

Tips to Prepare Your Teen (13-18 years)

  • Be transparent and discuss feelings about the procedure 
  • If inquiring about details of the procedure, encourage them to address with their medical team
  • As much as possible, give them choices and make them feel involved in their care plan
  • Give them privacy and respect their boundaries
  • Request a Child Life specialist for additional support and coping needs

The pediatric staff at University Hospital are compassionate to the feelings of anxiety and fear that you, or your child, may experience about surgery and the unfamiliar environment of the hospital. We strive to meet you and your child’s needs to make your visit to University Hospital a positive and enriching experience. Please let us know how we can be of service to you and your child during your child’s hospitalization.

Child Life at University Health

University Health’s Child Life specialists are a part of the multidisciplinary team and are clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Child Life Specialists are available to help you and your child understand and cope with the unknowns and possible fears of the hospital environment. Child life specialists offer comfort and support in order to help ease fears through preparation, education and play. 

Learn more about Child Life on our website.

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