Preparing Your 2 - 5 Year Old for Hospitalization

For children from two to five years, give clear, simple reasons for coming to the hospital.

Prepare Yourself First:
Talk to your child's doctor about your fears and concerns. Children can tell when parents are feeling nervous. This may make your child more anxious. Be sure to have all your questions answered before the day of surgery be aware of your feelings and past experiences concerning illness and hospitals.

Prepare Your Child:
Young children need to be prepared close to the date of surgery. One to two days in advance is best.

Here are some hints:

  1. Call Child Life at (727) 767-4323. Staff can meet with you and your child to help prepare them for surgery. Details will be given in a way your child will understand.
  2. Reassure your child that they have not done anything wrong and that surgery is to help them.
  3. Explain to your child that on the morning of surgery, it will be very important for their stomach (tummy) to be empty (have no food or drink in it) so that they will not throw up during surgery. They will not have anything to eat or drink the morning of surgery. We suggest you skip brushing teeth so there is no chance to swallow water or toothpaste. Your doctor or  nurse will tell you the exact time to stop giving your child food and drink before surgery.
  4. Tell your child what they will see, hear, smell and feel while at the hospital. You can get this information from your child's doctor, nurse or Child Life Therapist.
  5. Explain to your child that a special doctor (anesthesiologist) will give them some sleepy medicine so that they will not feel anything during surgery. Tell them it is a special kind of sleep and that they will not wake up until after the surgery is over.
  6. Reassure your child that you will be with them in the hospital and that they will go home when the surgery is over.
  7. Encourage your child to choose one or two toys or other personal items to bring with them.
  8. Read stories about going to the hospital. Allow your child to play with pretend medical equipment. Listen for any misunderstandings your child might have. Make this a fun time for you and your child.

Day of Surgery: 

  1. Once you arrive at the hospital, there is usually time to relax and settle in before going to surgery.
  2. You and your child will meet some of the operating room staff including nurses, surgeons and the anesthesiologist. 
  3. Your child will go to the operating room with this team. A staff member will guide you to the appropriate waiting area. This is a time to reassure your child that you will remain in the hospital, waiting for them to wake-up after surgery and be reunited with them in the recovery room. 
  4. Nursing staff will talk with you about the care your child will need when he or she goes home.

If you have any questions or would like additional information on helping your child feel more relaxed about his hospitalization or surgery, please call the Child Life Department at (727) 767-4323. If you have questions regarding surgery time, please call Pre-Admission Testing at (727) 767-8561 or 1-800-456-4543 x78561.