Preparing Your Child for a Hospital Visit

Preparing a child or teen for a hospital experience is essential. It will help to reduce their fear of the unknown, as well as promote important coping skills. In addition, it will support long term adjustment in the event of future hospital experiences. 

Guidelines To Help Prepare Your Child

1–3 years

If your child is toddler age, it is best to wait until the morning of to discuss the test or procedure. Give brief but honest explanations using simple, carefully chosen words. Words such as “fix” and “make it better” are less threatening than “cut,” “incision” and “take out.” Reassure your child that the procedure is not a punishment. Do not threaten your child with a medical procedure or with doctors or nurses.

3–6 years

If your child is of preschool age, it is best to prepare them a few days in advance. You can read books with your child about going to the hospital or engage in pretend play with a doctor’s kit. This allows your child to become familiar with medical items and ask questions. It is encouraged to be honest and use simple, concrete language.

7–12 years

Many of the guidelines for younger children apply to children of this age; however, you should discuss the upcoming medical experience at least a week in advance. Give a matter-of-fact explanation of the procedure and why it needs to be done. Allow your child to ask questions and discuss his or her fears with you.

13–18 years

Reassure your teenager that his or her privacy will be respected as much as possible, and that all information is kept in confidence. Give detailed answers to questions and encourage your teenager to ask questions of the doctor and nurse. Allow as much independence as possible.

Same Day Surgery

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Main Campus, Child Life Specialists offer preparation tours for children, adolescents and their caregivers.

To check for availability and register for a tour, call the tour line at 412-692-6366.

Same Day Surgery Preparation Book (PDF)

Same Day Surgery Preparation Book: Children’s North (PDF)

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Outpatient Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

Outpatient EEG Preparation Book (PDF)

Outpatient Radiology

Outpatient MRI Preparation Book (PDF)