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Procedures: Helping Your Child Cope

How Can You Help Your Child Cope During Procedures?

As a caregiver, you understand the ways your child copes better than anyone else. Our staff is committed to working with you and your child to help them cope with procedures that are part of treatment.


It is important to talk to children on a level they can understand. Use picture books and / or dolls for younger children (such as pre-school or school-aged) who tend to be concrete-thinkers. Children often do better if they know the plan ahead of time. They need to know what will be expected of them. A good way to prepare a child for a procedure is to think of the five senses: explain to the child what they might see, feel, smell, hear or taste.

When preparing children for procedures, give the most threatening information last so they are able to hear and absorb the non-threatening information first.

Finally, try to avoid making comparisons such as "this will hurt like a bee sting." (A child may have a negative association with bee stings even if they have never personally experienced it). Using concrete words such as “poke” or "pinch" is recommended.

Your Presence

Most children want a parent (or primary caregiver) to be with them. Our staff encourages family presence during procedures. If you cannot be present for some reason, let your child know where you will be waiting.

If a procedure is being done in an operating room, caregivers can wait in the nearby waiting areas and reassure their child that they will be with him or her as soon as possible.

Pain Control Without Medicine

There are many ways to cope with painful procedures; pain medicines are only one solution. Research and experience have shown that relaxation techniques are very helpful in dealing with pain and discomfort.

Encourage your child to blow bubbles or blow out imaginary birthday candles, tell jokes, say the alphabet, count out loud, listen to music, play “I spy,” play with a toy or video game, or even talk about friends or something they are looking forward to.

You may also use guided imagery. This occurs when you help a child use their imagination. Your child can imagine a happy time or place; it's similar to pretending. Some children, for example, pretend to ride on a magic carpet so that they can be at another place in their mind. They usually close their eyes and are able to describe sounds, sights and smells. It's a good form of redirecting the mind.


When communicating with children, it is important to remember two things: be honest and offer choices that are realistic.

  • Please remember that children should always be told the truth if something will hurt. If they are lied to, they may develop a sense of mistrust, especially with adults, which can impact future coping.
  • During a procedure, try to give your child a sense of control by offering simple, realistic choices. For example, "Do you want to count or sing a song with me?" Appropriate choices can build a sense of control and empower children in an unfamiliar environment.

Last Updated 06/2023

Reviewed By Sarah Sands, Child Life Specialist

Visiting Cincinnati Childrens.

Cincinnati Children’s has primary care services at locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.