Preparing Children for Surgery

October 1, 2019 

Our paediatric surgeries, tests and procedures can take place in any one of our three hospitals, dependent on the individual patient situation. We have some helpful tips for what to bring and how to prepare children for these visits to the hospital.

Please take a few minutes to watch this short video with your child:

‘Coming to the Hospital for Surgery: A Video for Kids’

Is your child coming to the hospital for surgery? Created specifically with kids in mind, this short video can help prepare children for their surgery or procedure at Halton Healthcare. Join 10-year-old Estelle as she takes you through each step of her surgery journey and offers helpful tips along the way!

Preparing children for surgery is important. Procedural information helps children understand what to expect, gives them the opportunity to ask questions and empowers them to use coping strategies. Children and their families can prepare for surgery at home together.


Child Life @ Home: Preparing Kids for Surgery

Follow along at home as Child Life Specialist, Jaime, shows kids how they can use a medical doll or stuffie to prepare for surgery.


Child Life @ Home: Deep Breathing

Follow along at home as Child Life Specialist, Jaime, demonstrates a deep breathing technique to help relax the body.

Items to Bring with Your Child on the Day of Their Surgery

  • Your child’s health card
  • A special stuffed animal or blanket for your child to take into the operating room
  • Toys and activities to distract your child during the waiting periods
  • A favourite water bottle or cup for your child to drink from after surgery
  • A book or magazine to distract yourself
  • An extra set of clothes

Please refer to your Pre-Surgery Package for instructions about eating and drinking prior to your child’s surgery.

Tips for Preparing Children for Surgery

Tell the Truth 
Parents are often afraid to tell their child about an upcoming medical experience because they are afraid the information will scare them. Being honest may help your child to trust you and the hospital staff. If possible, you should begin to prepare your child about a week prior to the day of surgery. 

Words to Use 
Most children understand the concept of something needing to be “fixed” as well as the concept of “helping”. For tonsils/adenoids or tubes, try “Remember when your throat/ear was really hurting and you didn’t feel well? The doctor is going to fix your ears, to help them feel better so they won’t hurt as much anymore." 

Answering Questions
Knowing what to expect removes the “fear of the unknown” and can provide you and your child with opportunities to address any fears or misconceptions. If you don’t know the answer to one of your child’s questions, it is okay to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” It may be helpful to ask your child what they think the answer to their question might be, as this will help you get a sense of what your child is thinking and feeling.

Fear of Pain 
Children are often worried that the operation will hurt or that they are going to get a needle. Children will receive “sleep medicine” (anaesthetic), usually inhaled through a mask, so that they will not feel or even remember their operation at all.

Before Surgery
Waiting at the hospital can be difficult for children. Prior to coming to the hospital, help your child pack a bag with some of their favourite toys and activities to distract them while they wait. Children are allowed to bring a stuffed animal or blanket into the operating room to help comfort them once they are separated from you.

Going into the Operating Room
Your child will go into the operating room with a nurse. This separation can sometimes be difficult for a child so it is important that they understand this part of the process. It is also important for them to know that they will see you when they wake up after their surgery.

After Surgery
Talking with your child about what they can do at home while getting better from their surgery indicates to their child that this experience is not “forever.” Children find it helpful to know that there is a beginning, middle and end to the experience.

Provide Reassurance to Your Child and Stay Positive
Many caregivers choose to not eat breakfast on the day of surgery.. Eating a good breakfast gives you the energy to support your child. It is normal for you to feel worried but remaining positive is important for your child’s ability to cope.

Watching ‘Coming to the Hospital for Surgery: A Video for Kids’ can help you and your child prepare for your child’s surgery.