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Familiarize Hospital for 5 Year Old Before Surgery

By Jodie Lynn


Our son is going to have surgery on one of his feet this summer. He is super apprehensive of hospitals. He is only five and is very active. Once the surgery is over he will be required to have physical therapy for at least five weeks, if he follows instructions. If he doesn't, he'll have to do it longer. We were wondering how to get an active five-year-old to slow down long enough for the therapy to go well and how to handle his fear of the hospital.


My son had surgery on one of his arms at the age of 12. Even at that age, it was difficult to try and get him to follow the doctor's orders of restraining use of it, especially since he insisted on playing baseball after three weeks. His coach said he would help monitor our son's use of the arm during the games and have another team member bat and run for him as much as possible. He did end up having to have his arm reset and go through some pretty painful therapy a second time around. Unfortunately, he was out for the rest of the baseball season but the arm did heal properly. Since your son is so young, it may be even more of a challenge to get him to keep still. It would be wise to figure out some things for him to do while in a seated and calm situation. - W. E. in El Paso, TX


Hospitals are pretty large, confusing buildings to someone of his age and height and can certainly cause apprehension. There may not be many opportunities for a five-year-old to visit a hospital, but if you make a special request to his surgeon, perhaps there is a section of it that he could visit for a couple of days each week for just a little bit, to get more comfortable with the sights and sounds. For example, sometimes when I visit someone in the hospital, I'll see families with small children eating in the cafeteria, looking at things in the gift shop or looking at paintings, posters, water displays or whatever the hospital chooses to display. Once he gains a bit of familiarity with it, he'll find that the hospital is a nonthreatening place. Since he will have the use of both of his arms, maybe you can make sure there are lots of things for him to do with his hands that are interesting enough to hold his attention. Another thing you can do is request his therapist to be well-experienced with kids his age. It's always amazing how someone outside the family can inspire kids to do things we may find difficult to handle ourselves, especially if they are dedicated professionals and truly care for children.

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© Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/health columnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including,,,,, and Lynn has written four books and contributed to three others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest books are "Mom CEO (Chief Everything Officer) - Having, Doing and Surviving It All!" (June 2006) and "Syndication Secrets - What No One Will Tell You!" (March 2006).
Please visit for details on her new radio talk show, Inside Parenting Success.


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