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

You should talk to your school-aged child about 1 week before the surgery. A few days or a week will give them time to think about the information and to ask questions.

What are common stressors my child might feel before surgery?

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

  • Loss of control
  • Fear of needles or vaccines
  • Fear of pain or the possibility of pain
  • Fear of waking up during surgery

How can I help my child before surgery?

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

  • Explain 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 is not punishment and that surgery will help them get better.
  • Explain the good things about the surgery. You can say something like, “After your arm heals, you can play baseball again.”
  • Encourage your child to ask questions. Answer your child’s questions in an honest, simple way. You can help your child understand the surgery and clear up anything your child doesn’t understand.
  • Ask your child to explain the surgery back to you. This way you can check how well your child understands what’s going to happen.
  • Give your child choices when you can. This can help your child feel more in control. Ask which favorite things they’d like to bring from home, like an electronic, book or toy.
  • Tell your child that it’s okay to cry or feel scared. Surgery can be scary. Tell your child that being scared or crying is normal.
  • Watch 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.
  • Read books about going to the hospital before the surgery. This can help your child understand what will happen on the day of their surgery.

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

For many school-aged children, the anesthesia (medicine to help your child go 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 other personal item from home
  • Reading a book
  • Guided imagery or thinking of a “happy place”
  • Playing a game, like I-Spy
  • Singing songs or listening to music
  • Telling jokes
  • Practicing deep breathing by saying, “Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, breathe out through your mouth for 5 seconds.”
  • Telling stories
  • Watching a movie or TV
  • Playing video games

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.