Preparing children for a hospital visit, procedure

Life & Health

A hospital can be scary for children. They are in a strange environment and meeting a bunch of new people.

There are ways you can take the stress out of surgery for them.

Ellen Earl is a child life specialist at the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. She says, “I think the most important thing is preparation. There are always parents who are afraid to tell their kids that they’re having surgery, but it’s more important for them to know where they’re going and why they’re going there.”

Tell them the truth but avoid confusing medical terms. Use neutral, unemotional words and focus on how they’ll feel.

Preschool-aged children should be told two days before the visit, but older children will likely want more time to process. Some hospitals offer a printable coloring book you can get online, which walks your younger child through the steps of surgery.

They also recommend you bring items from home like a favorite toy or blanket for familiarity.

Earl adds, “That way when the child separates from their parent, it’s not a difficult separation because they have those items from home that are comforting for them.”

Teens might feel a loss of independence and privacy when staying in the hospital.

Let them pack their own belongings and include them in the decision making for their health care.

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