A Guide to Prepare Brave Little Ones (and Parents!) for Medical Procedures

May 1, 2023

A trip to the doctor or hospital can be daunting for our little ones (and for us parents, too!). But fear not, with a bit of preparation and a touch of planning, we can help our children be ready for medical procedures with courage and calm.

As parents, we always strive to keep our children healthy and safe, but sometimes, medical procedures become necessary. This can be a source of anxiety and fear for both children and caregivers. However, with some preparation and planning, we can help our children approach these situations in a healthy and compassionate way. 

First and foremost, it's important for parents to remain calm and positive. Children are emotionally receptive to your feelings, so the more composed you are, the easier it will be for your child to remain calm too. 

A tip for parents and caregivers: learn as much as possible about the procedure beforehand so you can explain it to your child in a way that is age-appropriate and understandable.

Depending on the nature of the procedure, it may be helpful for you to reach out to your community for support. At Sprout Healthcare, your Health Navigator is available to walk you through what to expect and answer any questions you may have. 

Pediatric nurses and healthcare providers are specially trained to work with children, and they will do everything they can to make the procedure as smooth as possible for you and your child. It’s also important for you to communicate any concerns or questions you may have in advance, so you feel informed and prepared.

Here are some additional tips to help prepare your child for a medical procedure:

  • Use age-appropriate language to explain the procedure to your child. Acknowledge that there may be some discomfort or pain involved, but also focus on the positives and provide reassurance. 
  • For older children, it may be helpful to explain why the procedure is necessary and what parts of the body will be involved. Such as: “When we go into the hospital, the nurse will give you special medicine to help you fall asleep, just like you do at nighttime, and I will be with you. After the doctor is finished, you will wake up on the hospital bed, and I will be there. You might hurt a little bit. It will be over very quickly, and I will be with you the whole time.”
  • Give your child a sense of control by allowing them to make choices. For example, ask them if they want to bring their favorite stuffed animal or blanket to hold during the procedure.
  • After the procedure, debrief with your child and acknowledge their feelings. For example: “How did you feel when you were falling asleep? Yes, I could see that it seemed a bit scary for you. I’m so glad I was able to hold your hand and that I was with you when you were waking up. You were so brave!”
  • If your child is reluctant to undergo the procedure, remain calm and use language that lets them know you're on the same team. Try to come up with a compromise that allows them to maintain some control in the situation while still achieving the desired outcome.
  • For older children, you may want to try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. For younger children, distraction with favorite activities can be helpful, especially at the hospital. This could include coloring books, playdough, or watching a favorite show. 
  • If your child has questions (which they probably will), answer them honestly and using age-appropriate language.

Remember, children are resilient! The way that you as a parent approach their medical experiences can have a large impact on how your child learns to feel about receiving healthcare. Using these tools will help you and your child to move through these situations in a healthy way; acknowledging feelings while allowing for growth.

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References

Eat, Play, Sleep: Building Simple Mental Health Practices Into Your Family Routine

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