NYP David H. Koch Center


David H. Koch Center

Preparing Your Child for Surgery

Any hospital experience can be challenging and stressful for children and families. What children imagine about their upcoming surgery is often more frightening than reality. You can reduce your child’s fears and reduce your own anxiety by properly preparing him/her for surgery. We hope this will be a helpful guide during your child’s surgical experience and answer many of your questions.

How to Explain Surgery to a Child

  • Be open and honest. Use simple and accurate explanations, e.g. “the doctor has to fix something inside of your body that is giving you trouble.”
  • Keep it age appropriate. Children under age six may think they did something wrong to cause the procedure. Reassure them that it is not their fault.
  • Keep a positive attitude. If you show your anxiety your child will become anxious.
  • Check out our video. Go to nyp.org/komansky and click on “Your Child’s Surgery: What To Expect.” We recommend that you view our video before showing it to your child so you can determine if it will be helpful.
  • Schedule a hospital tour. Our Pre-Operative Preparation Program, offered through Child Life Services, provides an opportunity for children and their families to visit the hospital, ask questions and clear up misconceptions before their surgery or procedure. For more information please call 212-746-9970.

What to Expect Before Surgery

Expect a call from nursing with instructions to follow prior to surgery anywhere from 72 hours before up to 8pm the night before you are scheduled.

What To Expect on the Day of Surgery

  • Before the procedure you will meet with the surgeon and anesthesiologist. They will review the procedure and give you a chance to ask questions.
  • Two parents may walk their child to the operating room. You may be asked to wear protective clothing and a mask.
  • Your child may bring his/her favorite stuffed animal or blanket into the operating room.
  • The anesthesia team will place stickers on your child’s body which allow them to monitor your child throughout the procedure.
  • Anesthesia medicine is given either through a mask or an IV.
  • Reassure your child that he/she will be asleep for the entire surgery and will not hear, see or feel anything.
  • You may stay until the medical team escorts you out of the operating room and back to your room or the waiting space.
  • After the procedure, you will see your surgeon and can be with your child throughout recovery.


  • You will be with your child the entire time he/she is in the recovery room.
  • Siblings and other children are not allowed in the Recovery Area. Please make arrangements to keep siblings at home if possible.
  • Your child may wake up alert and feeling well or sleepy, confused, scared, sad, or angry. Every child is different.
  • Crying is normal and you can help relax or distract your child.
  • Please allow nurses to do their jobs. That means giving them space to set up monitors and check on your child.
  • Your nurse will tell you when it is okay to hold your child and when your child can eat or drink.
  • Pain management is very important to us. Even after pain medication, your child may still be uncomfortable. Toys and video games may help distract your child and keep him/her calm.
  • Your nurse will give you instructions on what comes next. Your child may be discharged and given prescriptions and follow-up appointment information. If your child is staying overnight, you will be moved to the inpatient unit as soon as a room is available.

Helping Your Child At Home

  • As your child is feeling better after the surgery, encourage him/her to participate in fun activities.
  • Allow your child to play or talk about the hospital experience.
  • Younger children may have nightmares, a poor appetite, or bathroom accidents. Older children may become withdrawn or clingy. These behaviors are normal. It is important to keep up regular routines. Be patient and understanding.
  • If you have questions about your child’s behavior, contact the Child Life Department at 212-746-3518.

Child Life Department

Pre Operative Tour Program