Developmental Stage: Preschool (3-5 years)

When should I start to get my child read for surgery?

You should start to talk to your preschool aged child 3-4 days before the surgery. A few days will give them time to think about the information, but not enough time to become scared or worry too much.

What are the common stressors my child might feel before surgery?

Some common stressors (things or events that cause stress) your preschooler might feel before surgery, include:

  • Being left alone
  • Fear of having their body part hurt or damaged
  • Fear of needles or vaccines
  • Fear of pain or the possibility of pain
  • Change in routine and comfort

How can I help my child before surgery?

There are many ways you can help your child get ready for his/her surgery, including:

  • Explaining why your child needs to have surgery. Sometimes children think they’ve done something wrong and that surgery is their punishment for “being bad.” Tell your child the surgery isn’t punishment and that surgery will help them get better.
  • Explaining what the hospital will be like in a simple, honest and child-friendly way. Answer your child’s questions honestly and using simple words. You could say, “The doctor is going to fix your bump” or “Your belly might hurt after surgery, but not for long.”
  • Giving your child choices when you can. This can help give your child a sense of control. Ask your child which toy they would like to bring to the hospital or which story they would like to read before the surgery.
  • Watching the Getting Ready for Surgery video, made by MGHfC. This video answers many common questions about what to expect before, during and after surgery at MGHfC.
  • Reading books about going to the hospital before the surgery. This can help your child understand what will happen on the day of their surgery. Some families have found “Curious George Goes to the Hospital” and “Franklin Goes to the Hospital” to be helpful.

How can I help comfort my child while they receive anesthesia?

For most preschoolers, the anesthesia (medicine to help your child to sleep) is given through a mask. The mask goes over their nose and mouth. It does not hurt. You can help comfort your child by:

  • Bringing your child’s favorite toy or blanket from home
  • Reading a book
  • Playing a game
  • Singing songs
  • Counting
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Telling stories
  • Watching a movie or TV
  • Listening to music

What should I bring from home?

Here are a few things you should bring from home:

  • Extra Pull-Ups® or clothing if your child is potty-trained or wets the bed at night.
  • A favorite snack or sippy cup. We have snacks in the recovery area, but you can also bring your child’s favorite snacks or sippy cup for when he/she wakes up from surgery.
  • A stroller. After surgery, some parents find it easiest for their preschooler to ride in their stroller.

Did you know?

You can watch a video on the MGHfC website to help you and your child get ready for surgery.

We are always here to help!

Our Child Life Specialist can also help you get your child ready for surgery. Please call our Child Life Specialist at 617-724-1211 if you:

  • Have questions about getting your child ready for surgery
  • Would like ideas or language to help get your child ready for surgery
  • Would like to share important information about your child with the Child Life Specialist
  • Want to set up a tour of the Center for Perioperative Care before surgery

If your child is admitted to the hospital after surgery, there are also Child Life Specialists on the inpatient units.

Rev. 9/2016.