700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Preparing Your Child for Colorectal Surgery

Jul 07, 2020
Little girl hugging teddy bear

Hospitals can be an unfamiliar place and having surgery can make an already stressful situation worse. To prepare your child for surgery, it is important to be honest, but consider their developmental age before telling them about their upcoming surgery.


While you can’t tell your infant about surgery, it is important to stay calm because infants can easily pick up on stress from caregivers. To promote comfort during hospital admission, bring familiar objects from home such as a pacifier, a blanket, a sound machine, or preferred toys.

Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Toddlers and preschool aged children need information to be presented in an honest and simple way. Tell your child that they are coming to the hospital no more that 1-2 days in advance. You can read books about going to the doctor or demonstrate what to expect and what they might see and hear using a doll or stuffed animal.

School-Aged Children

School-aged children can be told about their surgery 1-2 weeks in advance to allow time for asking questions. Provide simple and honest explanations in scientific terms. Use body outlines, models, and drawings of real body parts. Focus on positive behaviors and strengths and reinforce those behaviors. Create a coping plan together to use on the day of surgery.


Adolescents can be told about their surgery when it gets scheduled. Talk about what is going to happen and encourage participation in decision-making. Be honest and encourage your adolescent to ask the doctor or nurse any questions. Encourage your adolescent to choose a coping technique to help promote positive coping on the day of surgery.

When your child is admitted to the hospital, your family will be welcomed by your child’s assigned nurse and patient care assistant (PCA). Together, your child’s nurse and PCA will work to help you and your child adjust to the hospital setting. Your child will need their height, weight and vital signs measured. The nurse will gather information about your child and review their home medications.

Depending on the type of surgery, your child may need to have a bowel preparation (prep), either at home or in the hospital. A bowel prep is needed to clear out stool from your child’s bowel before surgery to reduce the risk of infection. A member of the Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstruction (CCPR) staff will notify you ahead of time if your child needs to have a bowel prep in the hospital, at home, or not at all.  

Day of Surgery Expectations

  • On the morning of surgery, your child will be given a special bath to help decrease the number of germs on their skin.
  • All nail polish, acrylic nails, jewelry, body piercings, hair beads, hair extension, and contact lenses will need to be removed.
  • Your child’s comfort is very important. Pain management will start before the surgery and will continue throughout your child’s hospitalization.
  • Parents or legal guardians will be updated on their child’s progress during the surgery. At the end of surgery, the surgeon will come to the surgery waiting room to update you about the procedure.

After surgery, you will meet your child in their hospital room. Recovery times vary based on the child and the surgery.

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Adrienne M. Flood, CPNP-AC
Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstruction

Adrienne (Addie) Flood, CPNP-AC, serves as an advance practitioner nurse at the Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstruction (CCPR) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Erika Roberts
Education Nurse Specialist

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.