Preparing your child for surgery (1191)

Key points below

Children’s Hospital

Planning for your child's procedure or surgery can be stressful. Being well prepared can help you and your child feel less nervous about surgery. One way to help you learn what will happen is to write down questions ahead of time. Having your own questions answered will help you as you start to talk to your child.

It is important to help your child understand why surgery is needed. Children cope better if they know what’s going to happen and why.

When preparing your child, information should be given:

Use the following tips to help your child:

Infants (0 to 12 months old)Preparing for surgery (A)

Toddlers (1 to 3 years old)

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old)Preparing for surgery (B)

School-Age Children (5 to 12 years old)

Teens (12 to 18 years old)Preparing for surgery (C)

What to tell other children in the family

Your other children may have questions. They may be worried and upset. How to help:

The Day of Surgery

Stay relaxed

Children notice how their parents react to a new situation. It is normal for you to be anxious about surgery, but it is important to not let your child see how you are feeling. If they see you are worried, they will be too. Children are surprisingly able to interpret body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. Nothing calms a child more than a confident parent.

Offer distractions

Make a plan to distract your child until it’s time to get ready for the procedure. If possible, pack a bag of new toys to keep them occupied. Keep the conversation upbeat and light; don’t let them pick up on your anxiety.

Work with the surgery team

The anesthesiologist and surgery team have your child’s best interest in mind. Be open and honest with them so they can make the best decisions for your child. Remember that the anesthesiologist has experience with preparing children for surgery, so take your cues from him or her to keep your child calm.

Child Life Specialists

Child Life Specialists have studied child development and how children react to health care settings. They help make the hospital less stressful for patients and families. They can help ease the fear and worry your child and their siblings may have. They can also help your child understand and cope with being in the hospital.

If you would like to meet with a member of the child life team during your stay, please ask your nurse to have them paged.

For more information


Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any concerns or if your child has special health care needs not covered by this information.