NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

Center for Community Health

Preparing Your School-Aged Child for Surgery

Plan to begin preparing your child one to two weeks before his or her procedure. This will give them enough time to process the information and to ask any questions they may have. Because the age range of school-aged children is so broad (ages 5–12), it is important to remember that you know your child best. Please use this information as a basic guideline.

How can I help prepare my school-aged child?

  • Children this age crave concrete information. Be prepared to explain in simple terms why they need surgery.
    • For example, if your child is having their tonsils removed you might say, “Everyone has tonsils in their throat. For some kids, their tonsils may get sick or infected. When they are infected, they make your throat hurt and it is hard to swallow. The doctor says that if we don’t take them out, you will keep getting sick with sore throats and missing school.”
  • It is important for children to understand that they will get anesthesia during the surgery. The most important thing to tell them is that they will get a medicine that helps them to sleep during the surgery so that they do not feel any pain. The doctor knows exactly how much medicine to give so that they do not wake up until the surgery is over.
  • Encourage them to repeat back to you what you talked about to ensure they understand. Also, encourage them to ask questions.
  • If your child is feeling afraid, validate their feelings and reassure them that you will be at the hospital to support them.
  • Read age-appropriate books to your child about going to the hospital.

What can I do to help my school-aged child cope at the hospital?

  • Provide your child with choice whenever possible on the day of your visit. Allow them to choose a toy or comfort item, maybe wear their favorite item of clothing or something that helps them feel safe and distracted.
  • Children look to you for clues about how to feel. Stay calm; your patience will help comfort them.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and fears and help support them in ways you may do at home.