Key Points

If possible, let children make choices about the care they will be receiving at Gillette.

Developmental Information

School-age children (age 6-12) are beginning to understand and be interested in how their bodies work. They want to know what will happen in the hospital or clinic and how they’ll look after a surgery. They are developing a sense of independence and enjoy making their own decisions. They may interpret medical procedures as punishment for past mistakes or bad deeds, and worry about pain or death. Be prepared to discuss these topics should they arise. (Child life specialists can help with these difficult topics.)

When preparing for a hospital stay or medical procedures, ask your health care provider to explain what your child will undergo and to clarify your role (i.e., what you can do to console and comfort your child). Ask about pain medicines that can be given before and if you can be present during the procedure.

Explaining procedures or surgeries in terms that your child can understand helps them be less fearful. If possible, let children make choices about the care they’ll receive. For example, they might choose which arm to use for a blood test, or whether they want to swallow or chew medicine.

Tell children ...

  • What they will experience (what it will feel like, how long it will last, whether it will hurt) 
  • When you will be there with them
  • How they may look or feel after treatment (e.g., stitches, casts, bandages)
  • They can ask questions and make some choices
  • They can bring familiar and comforting items (e.g., favorite toys, books or music)
  • That it’s okay to feel scared, upset or angry

Ideas for Helping Your School-Age Child Cope

Sensory

Thinking or Behavioral Distractions

Imagery

Music 

Hand-holding

Movies

Squeezing a hand, putty
or a pillow 

Talking softly

Heat/ice packs

Deep breathing

Blowing bubbles

Magic wands

Counting

Singing favorite songs

Hand-held games

Stories

Talk about fun stuff

Plans for after the
procedure

A pretend trip

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team.