Preparing your child for surgery (119101)

Key points below

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:

Infants (0 to 12 months old) 

Familiar objects and people are important to infants.
Bring a favorite blanket, toy or pacifier. 
Bring your infants bottle or cup to use after the procedure.

Toddlers (1 to 3 years old) 

Talk about the hospital one to two days before surgery.
Let your child choose a favorite stuffed animal or toy to bring.
Help explain what the staff will do before they touch your child. 
Help your child feel less afraid of the medical team. Let staff look at your ears or listen to the stuffed animal's heart first.  This may help put your child at ease.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old) 

School-Age Children (5 to 12 years old) 

Teens (12 to 18 years old)

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.

For other health and wellness information, check out this resource:


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.