Children's Pre-Surgery Planning
Having surgery is especially stressful for children. They must not only cope with an unfamiliar hospital environment, but they also have fears about the surgical process itself. Child life specialists at Children's of Mississippi offer the following information to help you and your family prepare for your child's surgery.
Infants (birth to 12 months)
- Fears: Strangers and being away from parents
- Infants need to be held and have a feeling of trust. It is important to let infants learn about the hospital by touching, looking and tasting the things around them.
Toddlers (12 months to 3 years)
- Fears: Being left alone
- Toddlers need to have choices when possible. They need to know about the surgery right before it happens. It also is important to tell them the truth about pain. Toddlers understand better when things are explained in relation to taste, feel, smell and sight.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
- Fears: Being left alone, the dark, new people and places
- It is important to provide positive support. Let the child play with medical equipment. Give information about the surgery two or three different times. Tell the child the exact body part which will be involved during the surgery. Find out what the child thinks will happen during surgery and talk about it.
School age (5 to 12 years)
- Fears: Loss of control, loss of friends, death
- Let the child talk about his fears. If you can, let the child help get things ready for the surgery. Let him practice the surgery on dolls. Begin talking about the surgery as soon as it is scheduled. Be positive and loving with your child.
Adolescents (12 to 18 years)
- Fears: Loss of friends, loss of control, changes in how they look, death
- Let the adolescent help plan the surgery. Let him choose the time, place and who might be there. Make sure the adolescent knows he will have privacy. Let him do things on his own.