Recognizing and Managing Pain in Your Preschooler

How do I recognize pain in my preschooler?

Preschoolers may display different behaviors when they are in pain or uncomfortable. Your preschool-age child may:

  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Not eat or drink as much as usual
  • Cry or whine more than usual
  • Need to be held
  • Become less active, lie quietly, or curl up in bed
  • Be restless
  • Complain of pain
  • Lose interest in play

How do I help my preschooler manage pain?

Comfort your preschooler

Some suggestions include: 

  • Holding and rocking your child.
  • Dimming the lights.
  • Talking in a soothing voice.
  • Providing quiet time.
  • Bringing your preschooler’s favorite toys and things from home.
  • Maintaining, or creating a schedule.
  • Staying with your preschooler as much as possible. If you need to leave, prepare your child by telling him you are leaving 5-10 minutes before you go. Let him know when you will return.
  • Let your nurse know what will calm your child during your absence.

Use touch to provide comfort

You can:

  • Change your preschooler’s position from time to time
  • Massage your child’s back
  • Hold your preschooler’s hand
  • Hug your child

Help your preschooler focus on something other than pain

Encourage your child to:

  • Listen to music.
  • Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Read a book with you.
  • Talk about his favorite place or memory.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Play a game or watch TV.
  • Hold a toy or stuffed animal.

If you have any questions, please ask your child’s doctor, nurse, or child life specialist.

Contact us

For more information about the Pain Management Program at CHOP or to schedule an appointment, please call 215-590-1409.

Reviewed by: the Pain Managment Program team
Date: August 2012

Review Date: August 2012