Preparing Your Preschooler for Surgery

If your preschooler's having surgery, you'll be better able to prepare her if you know what she's worried about and how you can help.

What is your child concerned about?

  • She fears damage to her body
  • She's afraid she did something wrong to cause the surgery
  • She may be imagining things that are far worse than the actual surgery

How can you help prepare your preschooler?

  • Give her some prep time. Tell your child about the surgery three to five days in advance.
  • Choose your words carefully. Your child will be curious and want to know what to expect, but avoid "double-meaning" words. For instance, don't explain anesthesia by telling your child the doctor is going to put her to sleep; she may be reminded of a pet being "put to sleep" and think she will die. Instead, say: "The doctors will help you take a nap for a few hours."
  • Quash her fears. Reassure your child that the surgery is not her fault. Encourage her to express her feelings, and tell her it's OK to cry or be scared.
  • Play with her. Try using a play medical kit to help her explore her feelings — and help you spot any misconceptions she may have about the upcoming surgery. Reading books with pictures of medical equipment can also be very helpful.


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