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Your Child’s Surgery

How do I prepare my toddler (1 to 3 years)?

Talking with Children  

You’ll be better able to prepare your toddler if you know what they're worried about and how you can help.

What is your child worried about?

    Your child may be worried about:

  • being away from you
  • changes to their routine
  • being in places they don’t know with new sights (bed, room), sounds, and smells
  • being around people they don’t know
  • they may think that going to the hospital is a punishment for something they did wrong
  • they may be scared of the medical equipment

How you can help prepare your toddler for surgery?

Don’t give your toddler too much time to think about the surgery. Toddlers don’t understand time well, so only tell them about the surgery 1 or 2 days before.

Let them have some control and give them choices when you can. Let them choose a stuffed animal, blanket, or favourite toy to bring to the hospital.

Be as calm and patient as possible. It’s normal for toddlers to be fussy and “act out” before surgery.

It can be very stressful for your child to be separated from you. Let your child know that surgery isn’t a punishment and that you or someone they know will be with them as much as possible.

Tell your child what’s going to happen right before and during any procedure or test. Use your child’s stuffed animal to help show what will happen. At this age your child learns best by watching.

Use words your toddler will understand, such as “you have been getting lots of “owies” in your ears, the doctor will fix your “owies”. Encourage your child to "practice" through play with a doll or on a parent. A child life specialist from the hospital can help you and your child with this, if you need help.

Help your child relax by reading a story together, talking about favorite activities, listening to music, dimming the lights, giving lots of cuddles, and using toys to help them think about things other than surgery.

Remember, the best medicine for your child is you. Your touch and voice will comfort your toddler more than anything else.​​​​​​

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