Preparing Your Child for a Medical Procedure


Nurse working on a pediatric patient

Sometimes children may need more than a shot to help them feel better. They may require an MRI, X-Ray, CT scan, EEG, ECG, ultrasound or even surgery. These medical procedures can be scary for children and families. Below are some tips on how to prepare your child and yourself.

Are You Ready?

  • Read and educate yourself about the procedure or surgery as much as you can. Ask the doctor questions such as length of procedure or surgery, what to expect, etc.
  • Begin to prepare your young child two or three days before the procedure and about a week for older children. Some hospitals and clinics offer tours of where the medical procedure will take place, which can be very helpful for children and families.
  • Manage your own worries and anxieties especially in front of your child. Children will be less scared when parents appear confident and reassuring.

What to Say

  • For young children keep language simple and positive. For example, “The doctor is going to use a machine to take a picture of your tummy.”
  • Explain the necessity of the procedure, “to help you feel better.”
  • If your child is having surgery or will be sedated, avoid words like “put to sleep” and “cut.”
  • Describe for children what they may see, feel, hear, taste or smell.
  • Encourage older kids and teens to ask the doctor questions.
  • If your child asks a question that you don’t know an answer to, it is OK to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out for you.”
  • Be honest.

What to Do

  • In preparing your child, there may be kid-friendly books about the procedure or even toy-like medical equipment with which to practice. Ask a nurse or staff at the clinic where the procedure will occur if they have these materials.
  • Practice at home what may be required for the medical procedure, including lying still.
  • Some children want to know all the details and other children don’t. Decide with your child if he wants to know what’s happening during the procedure or just when it is over.
  • If you’re able to be with your child during the procedure, provide reassurance and praise.
  • Help relax and distract your child by remembering fun events, telling stories, or singing songs.
  • If permissible, a favorite toy or stuffed animal can provide comfort. For older kids and teens, electronic devices such as an iPod or hand-held video game may be helpful.

Remember, each child is different and you know your child better than anyone else. Work with your medical care team to ensure your child has a positive experience.

– Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, PsyD, ABPP is a Pediatric Psychologist with Beaumont Children’s Hospital Divisions of Hematology/Oncology and Gastroenterology

1 Response to “Preparing Your Child for a Medical Procedure”

  1. 1 beaumontparentingprogram August 4, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Your timing is perfect for our family. It is overwhelming when trying to prep the little ones. Sometimes it is so difficult to know how much to share. Thank you for such useful tips.

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