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 with your child and watch this short video ‘Coming to the Hospital for Surgery: A Video for Kids’. This video for children follows 10 year old Estelle through each step of her surgery experience and can help alleviate anxiety and answer questions.

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

• Your child’s health card
• Your child’s special stuffed animal or blanket to take into the operating room
• Activities to distract your child during the waiting periods
• Book or magazine to distract yourself
• Extra set of clothes depending on the age of the child

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 talk to 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 opportunities to address any fears or misconceptions they may have. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, it is okay to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” It is also may be helpful to ask your child what they think the answer to their question might be, as it will help you get a sense of what the child’s thoughts are.

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.

Come to the Surgery Prepared
Waiting at the hospital for the surgery can sometimes be the most difficult part due to the unfamiliar people and environment. Prior to coming to the hospital, help your child pack a bag some of their favourite toys/activities to distract them while they wait for their surgery. 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, and also understand when they will see you again as soon as they wake up after their surgery. 

Talk About Things to do When they Go Home 
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 when there is a beginning, middle and end to the experience.

Your Will Provide Reassurance to Your Child
Many caregivers choose to not eat breakfast because their child cannot. Eating a good breakfast gives you energy to help support your child. It is normal for you to feel worried but children easily pick up on their caregiver’s emotions so it is best to stay positive. when in the presence of your child.