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Tips for preparing your child

When a child needs to go to the hospital, parents can help make the visit less scary with good preparation. How and when you talk with your child about an operation or hospital visit depends on his or her age and level of understanding.

As a parent, you know best how much information your child needs and can handle. However, generally, every child older than infancy needs to be told:

  • That he or she is going to the hospital.
  • That he or she will be having an operation.
  • About what will happen (basic information) during his or her hospital visit.
  • The Bud E. Bear Pre-Operative Education Program helps prepare children for an upcoming day surgery.
  • Ask your pediatrician to participate in the Emmi Solutions program, which takes you through your child's surgery, step by step.

We offer some simple tips below that will help your child thrive.


DOs and DON’Ts

DO…

  • Give simple explanations using words and concepts your child understands.
  • Answer your child’s questions honestly to help correct any incorrect notions he or she may have.
  • Explain that the operation will help your child get better. Children relate to reasons like, "It will help you be strong and healthy" or "It will help your body do its job."
  • Explain the timeframe of the operation in terms your child understands. Tell him or her when the operation is, how long the hospital visit will be, and how much time you will be able to spend with him or her.
  • Encourage your child to talk about the hospital visit and to ask questions. There are many books available at the public library on the subject written at your child’s level of comprehension.
  • Encourage your child to play with toys related to the hospital (like "doctor’s kits").
  • Explain that your child will not feel, hear, or see anything during the operation. Reassure him or her that he or she will not wake up during the operation—but will wake up when the operation is completely over and the doctor stops giving him or her the sleep medicine.
  • Explain that the medical problem your child faces is not a punishment for something he or she did wrong. Let your child know that many children have the same problem and must get it fixed at the hospital.

DON’T…

  • Try to answer questions you don’t know the answers to. Do tell your child that you don’t know the answer but will find out. Your child’s nurses or doctor should be able to answer any questions for you.
  • Promise your child that he or she will have no pain. Children do respond to varying levels of pain in different ways and may have some discomfort after the operation. The hospital staff are trained to help your child be as comfortable as possible.
  • Promise there will be no needles or make any other promises that you may not be able to keep.

For additional questions or concerns, please call the Child Life office at 254-935-4169.