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Preparing Your Child

If you have questions about your child's upcoming visit or to provide feedback about your child's recent visit, please call us at (256) 265-7705. The following age-specific information provides ways to reduce and possibly avoid causing anxiety for your child as you prepare for a visit.

Back to Pediatric Sedation

Infants: 0-12 months

Common causes of stress for infants

  • Separation from parents
  • Unfamiliar caregivers
  • Strange sights, sounds and smells
  • New and different routines
  • Interrupted sleep

How you can help

  • Make sure you and your baby are well-rested.
  • Attempt to remain calm; your baby can pick up on your stress.
  • During the period when your baby cannot eat, attempt to distract your child by rocking, walking, and comforting him or her.
  • Bring a favorite blanket or pacifier to the hospital.
  • It may also be helpful to have a familiar bottle for use after surgery or procedures.

Toddlers: 1-3 years

The sedation program is a service designed to reduce the pain and stress associated with children's medical care. We bring together providers from several disciplines to apply the best technologies and expertise to improve your child's medical experience. Plan to begin preparing your toddler the day before the procedure. Preparation too far in advance can cause more anxiety.

Common causes of stress for toddlers

  • Being left alone
  • Loss of comforts
  • Stranger anxiety - contact with unfamiliar people
  • Medical equipment
  • Restricted mobility

How you can help

  • Toddlers like to make choices, so offer some whenever possible. For example, have your toddler choose which toy to bring or which shirt to wear.
  • Explain who the staff is and what they will do before it happens.
  • Provide simple explanations and be careful of your wording. For example, say "The doctor is going to fix your leg." Do not say "The doctor is going to make a cut on your leg."
  • Read books with your child about going to the hospital.

Book recommendations

  • Going to the Hospital by Anne Civardi and Michelle Bates.
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degar.
  • A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital by Deborah Hautzig.
  • Going to the Hospital by Fred Rogers.
  • Big Operation: The Busy World of Richard Scarry by Richard Scarry.

Preschoolers: 3-5 years

Plan to begin preparing your preschooler three days before the procedure. Preparation too far in advance can cause more anxiety.

Common causes of stress for preschoolers

  • Being left alone
  • Fear of having a body part damaged
  • Fear of needles and shots
  • Fear of pain or the anticipation of pain
  • Interrupted routines

How you can help

  • Explain what the hospital will be like in honest and simple terms.
  • Explain to your child why he or she is having the scheduled procedure. Preschoolers often feel they have done something wrong and surgery is their punishment for being "bad."
  • Choices can increase your child's sense of control, so offer them when appropriate and possible.
  • Have your child tour the PainFree Program prior to the procedure. You may contact PainFree to arrange a tour.
  • Read books with your child about going to the hospital.

Book recommendations

  • Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark (Illustrator).
  • Clifford Visits the Hospital by Norman Bridwell.
  • Going to the Hospital by Anne Civardi and Stephen Cartwright.
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degar.
  • Katie Goes to the Hospital by Barbara Taylor Cork.
  • Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital by Virginia Dooley and Miriam Katin.
  • When Molly Was In The Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children by Debbie Duncan and Nina Ollikainen (Illustrator).
  • A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital by Deborah Hautzig.
  • Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Rey.
  • Going to the Hospital by Fred Rogers.
  • Big Operation: The Busy World of Richard Scarry by Richard Scarry.
  • A Hospital Story by S. B. Stein and G. Kliman.

School-aged Children: 5-12 years

Plan to begin preparing your child a week before his or her procedure. Preparation too far in advance can cause more anxiety.

Common causes of stress for school-aged children

  • Loss of control
  • Fear of pain or the anticipation of pain
  • Fear of needles and shots
  • Fear of waking up during surgery

How you can help

  • Make sure your child knows why he or she is having the scheduled procedure. School-aged children may feel they have done something wrong and medical experiences are their punishment for being "bad."
  • Explain the benefits of your child's procedure. For example, explain "After your teeth are fixed, it won't hurt when you eat."
  • Choices can increase your child's sense of control, so offer them when appropriate and possible.
  • Ask your child to explain back to you what is going to happen at the hospital. This can help you learn whether or not your child has a clear understanding of what to expect.
  • Have your child tour the PainFree Program prior to his or her procedure. You may contact PainFree to arrange a tour.
  • Let your child know it is okay to be afraid and to cry.
  • Because school-aged children have a great deal of imagination, be sure to talk to them honestly. Encourage your child to ask questions and provide honest answers to eliminate misconceptions.
  • Read books with your child about going to the hospital.

Book recommendations

  • Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark (Illustrator).
  • Clifford Visits the Hospital by Norman Bridwell.
  • Why Am I Going to the Hospital? by Claire Ciliotta and Carole Livingston.
  • Going to the Hospital by Anne Civardi and Michelle Bates.
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degar.
  • Katie Goes to the Hospital by Barbara Taylor Cork.
  • Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital by Virginia Dooley and Miriam Katin.
  • When Molly Was In The Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children by Debbie Duncan and Nina Ollikainen (Illustrator).
  • A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital by Deborah Hautzig.
  • The Hospital Book by James Howe and Mal Warshaw.
  • Let's Talk About Going To The Hospital by Marianne Johnston and Erin Mckenna.
  • Things To Know Before You Go To The Hospital by Lisa Ann Marsoli.
  • Twins Go To The Hospital: Sweet Valley Kids by Francine Paschal.
  • Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Rey.
  • A Hospital Story by S. B. Stein and G. Kliman.

Teenagers: 12-18 years

Teens like to be active participants when it comes to decision making; attempt to act as partners when making decisions with your teen. You and your teen can begin learning and preparing as soon as the decision to have a procedure has been made.

Common causes of stress for teenagers

  • Loss of control
  • Change in appearance
  • Fear of surgery and its risks
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of dying during surgery
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Concern with body image

How you can help

  • Respect your teen's need for privacy and his or her concern about body image.
  • Talk openly and frequently about what is going to happen.
  • Teenagers are often uncomfortable admitting they do not understand explanations. Parents and healthcare professionals may need to explain the procedure and treatment several different ways without making a teen feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage teens to bring a few comfort items from home, such as books, hand-held video games and CD players.
  • Be truthful in answering questions. Teens can become angry if they feel they are being lied to.
  • Have your teen tour the PainFree Program prior to his or her procedure. You may contact PainFree to arrange a tour.
  • Have your teen read books about going to the hospital or having surgery.

Book recommendations

  • The Patient's Guide To Anesthesia by A. J. Hill.
  • Hospital Smarts by Theodore Tyberg and Kenneth Rothaus.