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Preschoolers (3 - 5 years)

Preschoolers are curious and imaginative, thus may have lots of questions, and can have some fears or wrong ideas about the surgery. Although preschoolers may not fully understand why they are having surgery, they benefit from simple explanations given about 3 to 5 days before their surgery. Ensure they have time to ask questions about the surgery and allow them to express their feelings or concerns.

Preschoolers may be concerned about:

  • being in the hospital because they have done something wrong
  • damage to their body
  • separation from parents
  • interacting with unfamiliar people
  • loss of control

To prepare your preschooler for surgery:

  • Sometimes children at this age think they are going to the hospital because they have done something wrong or bad. Reassure your child that this isn't true. Make sure your child knows why he or she is going to the hospital.
  • Be open and honest with your child, about the upcoming surgery - explain why your child is having surgery and when it will occur. Use words your child will understand, such as, "The doctor is going to fix your tonsils." Avoid saying, "The doctor will remove your tonsils.", as preschoolers don't like having things taken from them, especially their own body parts.
  • Find out what your child's ideas are about going to the hospital. Your child may be imagining something far more frightening than what is actually happening. Answer any questions and correct any misunderstandings your child may have. Explain only what he or she will see, hear, smell and feel, as too much detail can be confusing.
  • Your preschooler will be concerned about being away from you or being with unfamiliar people. Reassure your child that you will be with him or her in the hospital. Talk about who your child will meet at the hospital.
  • Use play to help your child express concerns or feelings (doctor kits, imaginary play, dress up).
  • To provide a sense of control, allow your child to choose items to bring to the hospital (stuffed animal, blanket, favourite toy or book). As well, plan some special activities with your child to do at home after the surgery.
  • Day of Surgery - Photo Tour and read books together about coming to the hospital.

Toddlers | Preschoolers | School Age Children | Teens