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Preparing for Your Child’s Surgery

Prepare yourself for your child’s surgery. Parents who can control their worries and be as relaxed as possible send the message to their child that everything will be okay.

Talk with your child about his/her trip to the hospital and upcoming surgery. Use simple words that your child understands and be honest. This will help your child trust you and the staff at Mass. Eye and Ear. Ask your child what he/she is thinking or feeling about the surgery, and answer any questions you can. Use the following information as a guideline for talking to your child about surgery.

Toddlers (1 to 3 years old)

Young children do not understand time the same way older children and adults do. Preparation one month or even one week ahead may be too abstract and may not be helpful, so it is best to talk to your child one or two days before surgery. Help your child feel like he has some control by allowing him to choose a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or toy to bring to the hospital. It is normal for toddlers to become fussy and have changes in their behavior; it is helpful it you can remain calm and patient with your child.

Preschoolers (4 to 5 years old)

Preschool aged children will benefit from preparation three to four days before surgery. Use simple words to explain to your child what will happen without too many details, as she will most likely be very curious. Preschool age children can have fantasies about the hospital experience and will use their imagination because they do not know what to expect. They often think that they did something to cause the surgery, or they may become angry at parents and caregivers. It is important to tell your child that the surgery is no one’s fault, and that it is OK to tell you how she is feeling. Use soft words to describe experiences. Tell them they may be “sore” and want to say “ouch” instead of saying something will “hurt.” Avoid the term “put to sleep” which could be associated with putting a pet to sleep. You could say “special kind of sleep” or “help you take a nap.” Reading books with pictures of medical equipment and using play medical kits are great ways for your preschool child to explore feelings. Click here for a list of recommended books.

School-age Children (6 to 12 years old)

School-aged children can be told about surgery one or two weeks ahead of time. School aged children often worry that they will wake up during surgery. Explain to your child that there is a doctor whose job it is to make sure that he stays asleep and does not feel anything during the surgery. Your child may also worry that the surgery will change the way he looks, so it is best to give him details about what will happen before, during and after the surgery. Talk to your child about the experience in sensory terms – what he may hear, smell, see, touch, etc. It is normal for your child to become angry or quiet, or to exhibit different behaviors. Be supportive and treat your child as normally as possible.

Adolescents (13 years and older)

Involve your teenager in the planning, discussions and decisions of the surgery, as she is very aware of her body and how it works. The biggest worry for an adolescent is how the surgery may change the way she looks and how it will affect daily activities with her friends. Encourage your adolescent to write down or ask any questions she may have. Discuss her fears and be completely honest. Adolescents are looking for more independence, and being in the hospital may make them feel less independent. Help her by giving her some feeling of control during her hospital stay.

Children do better with surgery and anesthesia when they are well prepared. Be honest with your child in a way that is appropriate for their age and personality. Keep in mind their developmental level, as well as any past medical experiences.

Involve your child’s siblings in the preparation activities. This will ensure that they feel involved even though they cannot be at the hospital during the surgery. It is important that you be able to give the child having surgery all of your attention, so we ask that you please leave siblings at home.

Be sure to follow the food and drink guidelines provided to you by your surgeon’s office. Remember not to eat and drink around your child or other children on the Pediatric Unit as they are all not allowed to eat before surgery.

Pre-Admission Teaching Tours

For more information about how to prepare your child for surgery, contact the Child Life Specialist at 617-573-4184. Pre-Admissions Teaching Tours are also available to patients and their families. Please call to schedule an appointment. 

Important Information for Parents  

Please click on the links below for important information you will need to review before your surgery.

Letter to Parent/Guardian

Pre-Operative Guide for Pediatric Patients and Their Families

Infection Prevention Tips

Medication List

Main Campus Map and Directions (243 Charles Street, Boston Campus)

Our Pediatric Patients are Special