In This Section      

Preparing for Your Preschooler’s Surgery

What to Expect

  • Your preschooler may have fears and misconceptions related to the hospital experience. They may think they did something wrong to cause the need for surgery.
  • Children often fear the unknown. This can lead them to create images in their minds that are much scarier than what the actual experience will be like.
  • Your preschooler will be hungry on the day of surgery because they are not able to eat anything before surgery.

Helping Your Preschooler

  • Talk to your child about surgery using simple words. Explain what body part the doctor is going to fix. Use words for body parts that your child is familiar with.
  • Wait until a few days before to talk to your preschooler about surgery. It is important to give your child enough time to process the information, but not too much time to allow for fears and misconceptions to develop.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to express his or her thoughts and feelings related to the surgery. You can do this by asking open-ended questions, such as “tell me about your surgery” and also by encouraging your child to participate in dramatic play related to surgery. This will give you a chance to understand your child’s thoughts and potential misconceptions.
  • Bring familiar items from home. Allow your child to help choose what to bring, this will give him a sense of control
    • Comfort items, such as blankets and stuffed animals, as well as any items you think may be helpful
    • Favorite toys and activities to keep your child busy while they are waiting for surgery. We have a variety of toys in the pre-op areas that you are more than welcome to use.
  • Keep food and drink out of sight on the day of surgery. Children are not able to eat or drink before surgery. Toddlers can often be distracted from this with toys and activities, as long as they do not see any food or drink.
  • Be patient with your child. It is not uncommon for preschoolers to regress a bit surrounding a hospital experience. They may revert to thumb sucking or wetting the bed. These behaviors will likely be temporary. Try to provide comfort and support to your child, while remaining consistent with your approaches to discipline.

If you have further questions related specifically to your child’s needs, please contact the pre-op Child Life specialist at 410-955-9652.

Explore the Children's Center

Find A Pediatric Specialist
Search our experts by specialty, disease, or condition
Health Information
Get the facts on diseases, conditions, tests and procedures