At Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC), we work closely with each patient and their family to prepare for surgical procedures. Our leading pediatric specialists focus on a compassionate approach to pediatric care that makes each child comfortable and confident about their treatment. 

For school-aged children preparing for surgery, it's essential to recognize what is stressful to your child and how to guide their experience while in the hospital. Common stressors and fears for school-ages children in the hospital may include: 

  • Being away from school and friends
  • Thinking he or she is in the hospital because he or she is in trouble or being punished
  • Fear of body injury, mutilation and never being well again
  • Loss of control, loss of your respect and love
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of anesthesia
  • Modesty concerns 

In order to reduce your child's stress and discomfort, we've developed a set of steps parents can take to help your school-aged child prepare for surgery.

How can I prepare my school-age child for surgery?

School-age children are usually old enough and mature enough to understand many aspects of the surgical procedure they'll undergo. Preparing school-age children for surgery should include the following: 

  • Begin preparing your school-age child for surgery in the week before the procedure. This will give them plenty of time to prepare physically and mentally for the surgery, but not enough to time to worry, stress or over-think the procedure.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child's surgery. The more you know, the better you will be able to help explain things to your child.
  • Make sure your child knows why they are having surgery in words they can understand.
  • Have your child explain back to you what is going to happen in the hospital. School-aged children sometimes will listen carefully, but will not understand the explanation. When you have your child teach you, it clarifies whether or not your child understands.
  • Tour the hospital before the surgery to help your child see the sights, sounds, and events they will experience the day of surgery. The tour and preparation will help your child learn about the hospital and give them time to talk about concerns and questions. You can contact your Child Life Specialist at 720-754-7717 or 720-754-7712 to schedule a tour.
  • When your child is experiencing stress, they may regress to old fears or display new fears, such as being afraid of the dark. Listen to your child's fears and reassure them that they are safe. The regressive behavior will usually improve after the stress of the procedure has passed.
  • Let your child know that it is acceptable to be afraid and to cry. Encourage them to ask questions of the physicians and nurses.
  • A family member should stay with your child as much as possible. Always tell your child when you are leaving, why, and when you will be back. If your child will remain in the hospital for several days, ask family and friends to call and visit often.

Helpful books for you and your school-age child to read together

In the process of preparing your school-ages child for surgery, it can be helpful to read stories about children’s surgeries and hospital experiences. Recommended books include: 

When Molly Was In The Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized by Debbie Duncan, Nina Ollikainen (Illustrator).

Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to Hospital by Virginia Dooley and Miriam Katin & Mondo Publishing.

Hospital Journal: A Kid's Guide to a Strange Place by Ann Banks

How to Feel Better About Being in the Hospital: A Guide to Everything You Want to Know About Being in the Hospital But Are Afraid to Ask by Michael Sherman and Joan Wolfensberger

This is a Hospital, Not a Zoo by R. Karim

Going to the Hospital by Usborne First Experiences 

Learn more

To find more information about preparing your school-aged child for surgery, please contact your Child Life Specialist at 720-754-7717 or 720-754-7712. If you'd like to schedule an appointment at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, please call 720-754-1000.