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Preparing your child for their procedure

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

We know that children (and parents) often find coming to hospital for a procedure a scary prospect. Preparing yourself and your child will really help reduce those nerves and lead to a better overall experience for both of you.

Taking time to understand the treatment that they will be having and what you can do to help comfort them before, during and after the procedure, will help you become more confident and relaxed.

You know your child best - they will benefit from a certain amount of preparation and information depending on their developmental level. Here are some of the best strategies to help prepare yourself and your child for their big day!


Preparing your infant for surgery is mostly about preparing yourself, but it is important to try and keep your baby in their routine feeding and sleeping schedule.

On the day of the procedure your baby will be most comforted by familiar people, objects and sounds. It can be helpful to bring your baby's favourite toy to keep them entertained.

Most importantly by remaining calm and being yourself you will be the best comforter to your child throughout their time with us.


Toddlers often benefit from honest, simple explanations of what is going to happen to them. Tell them they are going to hospital no more than 1 - 2 days beforehand. Repetition and re-enforcement can be helpful as can focusing on what they will see, hear and taste.

It can be relaxing for them to do some of the things they truly enjoy doing at home (e.g. colouring, and playing with their favourite toys). The Kingsbridge North West children's play area is a great place to keep your little one entertained whilst you wait for their procedure.

Toddlers often experience separation anxiety. We ensure that you can be with your child as they are going off to sleep and as soon as they awake in the recovery area.

Your toddler will pick up on your body language. Presenting a calm and happy attitude around your child will really help them feel safe and relaxed.

Nursery school age

If your child is in Nursery or early Primary School then they will understand the concept of surgery and may be frightened at the thought of it. We would recommend letting them know at least 3 - 4 days in advance, and discussing the idea that the procedure will make them better rather than hurt their body.

Reading books about going to hospital, roleplay, and discussing what will happen to them can be helpful in preparing your child for their procedure. Be mindful of any fears or misconceptions that your child might have and use this as an opportunity to talk with them about it.

Having familiar objects such as their favourite blanket or cuddly toy can be extremely comforting to your child. We would encourage your child to make use of the play area at Kingsbridge North West during their time with us.

School age

School-aged children may keep their worries to themselves. Reassuring your child that the procedure will go well and that their pain will be well controlled is often extremely important.

We recommend discussing their procedure with them a week or two in advance to allow your child time to process and ask any questions (they can send them through to Mr. MacCormack directly if that is helpful

Using the patient information leaflets provided and giving your child simple, honest, and scientific explanations can be helpful. Focus on positive behaviours and develop a coping strategy together.

On the day of surgery school-aged children can often worry about where their parents will be during their procedure. Reassure your child that you will be with them when they are going off to sleep and that you will be there with them in recovery as soon as they wake up.

Magazines, books or tablet devices can be really helpful in keeping your child's mind off the procedure.


Older kids will often play a much bigger role in the decision to schedule surgery for their condition.

Adolescents may have deeper fears about surgery - such waking up during the procedure, being disfigured and therefore different from their peers, or even dying. Talk about what is going to happen to them and encourage them to read the patient information leaflets.

This group of young-adults can feel very sad or angry if they are excluded from the decision making around their planned procedure. Mr. MacCormack welcomes any questions your young person may have (encourage them to email Mr. MacCormack directly at if they have any concerns).

On the day of their procedure your teenager may be more relaxed if they have access to their social media or favourite apps on their smartphone.

Final thoughts

The thought of surgery can make both you and your child anxious. You know your child best and together, with clear information, and the right preparation strategies, you can make the process less daunting for both of you.

To find out more information about your child's general anaesthetic please click here.

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