Preparing for Anesthesia and Surgery

How and when should I prepare my child for anesthesia and surgery?

  • Be honest with your child about where he or she is going. Do not lie to your child.

  • Reassure your child that he or she will be asleep during surgery and will wake up after surgery.

  • Reassure your child that a family member will be with him when he wakes up after surgery.

  • Younger children (about 8 years and under) should have things explained in terms that he will understand. For example, you might tell your four-year old that he will have an operation to "fix his tummy" or to "make his tummy better" and that he will be asleep when he has his operation. It may also help to have your younger child pick one item, such as a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal to bring to the hospital for security.

  • Older children and teenagers (about 9 years and older) should be given as much detail and information as you think they can handle. Try to encourage your child to ask questions. Help your child to think of ways to make waiting for surgery easier, such as bringing a book to read or music to listen to through headphones.

When should I prepare my child?

  • You can begin to prepare your younger child a week or so before surgery by giving information about what will happen. If your child is 3 years or under, or very anxious, you might wait until the week of surgery or just a few days before surgery to start talking about it.

  • Older children and teenagers can usually be prepared in advance of surgery at about the same time that you prepare. However, if he is very anxious or has a developmental delay, you might wait until the week of surgery to talk to your child in more detail.

These age ranges and guidelines are suggestions. All children are different. You know your child best and you should use your judgment about how and when to prepare your child.