Preparing Your Child for Surgery

We know your child isn’t the only one who can feel anxious about surgery — you can too! Surgery can be an unfamiliar experience for parents and children alike.

At Banner Children’s, we’re here to help your family feel as comfortable as possible and know what to expect before, during and after surgery. Our pediatric surgical team, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and staff members, are dedicated to providing support to you and your child throughout the surgical process.

Our child life specialists will also support your child every step of the way and can help to explain the surgical process in a way your they can understand.

We help take care of the details to get your child ready for surgery so your focus is where it should be — on your child.

How Can I Prepare for My Child’s Surgery?

We’re here to answer all of your questions and guide you through the process before, during and after your child’s surgery.

Our child life specialists lead a free pre-surgery class to give you and your child an opportunity to learn about the surgery process. They help prepare your child for the procedure by explaining surgery and what it’s like to be in the hospital in age-appropriate ways. You’ll tour the pre-op area, watch a video about surgery and see medical supplies that will be used, such as an anesthesia mask.

The class is for toddlers to 12-year-olds, and it’s free, but registration is required. If your child is older than 12, you can make an appointment with our child life specialists, and they will talk with your child and provide a tour.

The pre-op class — or for teenagers, an appointment to talk with a child life specialist and take a tour — will really help to relieve worries for both of you.

Talking to Kids at Any Age About Surgery

Your child picks up cues from you, so if you’re calm and confident, your child will be more relaxed too.

Here are tips to help you talk to your child about surgery and ways to make their experience easier:

  • Infants & Toddlers (ages 0-2) – Toddlers understand time differently than adults. That’s why we suggest you tell your child about surgery only a few days before. We also recommend you bring a pacifier, favorite blanket, doll or stuffed animal to help comfort your child.
  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) – Preschoolers are old enough to be curious about their surroundings and what’s happening, so you should tell your child about surgery a few days to a week in advance. Use words such as “fix” or “make it better” during your talk and answer any questions your child may have. And don’t be afraid to answer any questions they may have about their surgery.
  • School age (ages 6-10) – If your child is in grade school, you should tell them about surgery at least a week in advance and explain the process of what will happen the day of surgery. You can tell your child about the special doctor who will make sure they will stay asleep during the surgery and will not feel pain. Let your child know the nurses and doctors want to answer any questions they have during pre-surgery visits.
  • Teens – Talk with and include your teen in the decision-making process from the beginning. We know it’s important for kids this age to maintain their independence and sense of control. We encourage them to ask their surgical team any questions they may have during the process.

We’ll help you take care of the details necessary to prepare for your child’s procedure with our focus to make it as quick and easy as possible.


To save time on surgery day, register your child online to provide the necessary insurance and contact information. You can also register by phone, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please register as soon as the surgery is scheduled or at least 2 days before the procedure. Also check with your insurance company to authorize your child’s procedure.

Pre-Admission Interview

A nurse will contact you at least 2 days before your child’s surgery to answer any questions, review your child’s health history and any medicines your child takes. Let the nurse know if your child has a cold, cough, fever, pink eye (conjunctivitis), chicken pox, measles or has recently been exposed to chicken pox or measles. We need to know before surgery to protect your child and other patients from highly contagious illnesses.

The nurse will also need to know about guardianship issues, such as foster care or custody issues, so the correct legal guardian can sign the consent form.

Pre-Surgery Tests

Your child’s doctor may require blood work or X-rays before surgery. Tests must take place 72 hours before surgery, so schedule and complete them as soon as possible. If the test is done through a primary care physician and not your pediatric surgeon, please request a copy of the results be sent to the surgeon or bring a copy with you the day of surgery.

Use this checklist to help make your child’s surgery day less hectic and make it easier for you to focus on your child.

What to Do Before Surgery

  • Complete the pre-surgery admission interview. If a nurse hasn’t called you within 48 hours of your child’s surgery, call the hospital.
  • If your child takes medications, talk to your doctor about how they should be taken before surgery.
  • Arrange childcare for other children while you’re at the hospital or surgery center.
  • Check with your insurance provider if you have questions about your co-payment or deductible.
  • Call your doctor if your child has symptoms of a cold, the flu, a rash, or any other illness or infection.
  • Your child can’t bring jewelry or use make-up, nail polish or deodorant the day of surgery.

Your child’s doctor will also give you guidelines for what your child can eat or drink before surgery. Generally, your child should not have:

  • Food 8 hours before
  • Full liquids and milk 6 hours before
  • Breast milk (infants) 4 hours before
  • Clear liquids 2 hours before

Our experienced team of surgical specialists has created a list of items you may want to bring with you on the day of surgery for you and your child’s comfort. These include:

  • Comfortable clothes for your child
  • A favorite toy or blanket
  • A special bottle or cup
  • Contact or glasses case if your child wears either
  • Personal music devices or hand-held video games
  • Medical charts or test results the surgeon doesn’t have
  • Your insurance card, photo ID, and co-payment if you have one
  • Any medications your child is taking

What NOT To Bring

For your child’s safety, certain items are not allowed in the operating room. These include:

  • Nail polish
  • Cosmetics
  • Jewelry
  • Glasses/contacts

If your child wears glasses or contacts, please bring with you the proper storage containers to store with you during surgery.

Our team will be by your side through the entire surgical process and ready to answer any questions you have along the way. All of our staff members are focused on helping you and your child feel comfortable every step of the way.

Check- in

Please arrive 2 hours before your child’s surgery. If you haven’t pre-registered, you’ll do it when you check in and pay your co-payment or deductible if you have one.

Pre-op Area

After you check in, you and your child will go to the pre-op area where:

  • We’ll check your child's vital signs, review your child’s health and medical history
  • You’ll sign the surgical consent form
  • You’ll meet the surgeon, anesthesiologist and the pre-op and operating room nurses and they’ll explain the surgery, anesthesia and answer any questions you have

When it’s time to go into the surgical area, your child can go in a bed, wagon or riding toy and take a favorite toy or blanket. Our surgical team knows you may both be anxious as your child goes into surgery. Your child will be in good hands with caring people who know how to soothe and make your child feel as comfortable as possible.

During Surgery

You can wait in the surgery waiting area during the procedure. Either you or another family member needs to stay in the waiting area during the procedure in case the doctor or nurse needs to talk with someone during surgery. When the procedure is over, your surgeon will let you know how it went, and a nurse will take you to your child in the recovery area.

It’s not unusual for your child to be disoriented and cry when coming out of anesthesia. You’ll be there to help soothe your child.

If your child will stay overnight, you’ll go to your child’s room. When your child is discharged, either that day or after a hospital stay, a nurse will give you prescriptions for medications your child may need and go over the doctor’s instructions. Make sure you:

  • Have or know what materials or supplies you may need for your child at home
  • Understand when your child can get back to normal activity, including activities such as running, biking and other sports
  • Ask when you should schedule a follow-up appointment with the doctor
  • Ask who to call if you have questions or concerns

How Can Surgery Affect My Child?

Pain, irritability or discomfort is common after surgery. We encourage you to hold or rock your child can help. Your doctor may also recommend medication to help relieve pain and irritability.

Your child may develop new fears, have mood or sleep changes or be clingy. They’re temporary changes and may last up to 2 weeks. You can help your child process and communicate what he or she feels. Talk with them about the experience or play doctor. Our child life specialists can help too. We’ll talk with your child or give you ideas on other ways to bring reassurance.