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Preschooler test or procedure preparation

Contents of this page:


Preschooler test
Preschooler test

Alternative Names    Return to top

Preparing preschoolers for test/procedure; Test/procedure preparation - preschooler

Definition    Return to top

Proper preparation for a test or procedure reduces your child's anxiety about the situation, encourages cooperation, and helps the child develop coping skills.

Information    Return to top

Preparation can effectively reduce distress in children undergoing medical tests, and can minimize crying and resistance to the procedure. Research finds that lowering anxiety can actually decrease the sensation of pain felt by people during uncomfortable procedures.

Before the test, understand that your child probably will cry, and that preparation may not change the fact that your child will feel some discomfort or pain. You can try demonstrating what will happen during the test in advance to learn about your child's particular fears and concerns. Using a doll or other object to act out the test may help reveal worries that the child may not be willing to discuss directly.

This may help reduce your child's anxiety. Most people are more frightened of the unknown. It helps if the child knows what to expect. If a child's fears are unrealistic, you may want to explain what will actually happen. If the child is worried about an unavoidable part of the test, do not minimize this concern, but reassure the child that you will be there to help as much as you can.

Make sure your child understands that the procedure is not a punishment. Children at this age may believe that the pain they feel is a punishment for something they did.

The most important way you can help your child is with proper preparation, and with your support and comfort around the time of the procedure.


Keep your explanations about the procedure to 10 or 15 minutes, because preschoolers have a limited attention span. Preparation should take place directly before the test or procedure so that the child doesn't worry about it for days or weeks in advance.

Here are some general guidelines for preparing your child for a test or procedure:


Your presence may help your child during the procedure, especially if the procedure allows you to maintain physical contact. If the procedure is performed at the hospital or your health care provider's office, you may be given the opportunity to be present. If you are not sure that you are allowed to be present, ask. If you think you may become ill or anxious, consider keeping your distance but remaining in your child's line of vision. If you are not able to be present, leaving a familiar object with your child may be comforting.

Avoid showing your anxiety. This will only make your child feel more upset.

Other considerations:

References    Return to top

Khan KA, Weisman SJ. Nonpharmacologic pain management strategies in the pediatric emergency department. Clin Ped Emerg Med. 2007;8(4):240-247.

Update Date: 4/25/2008

Updated by: Jennifer K. Mannheim, CRNP, private practice in Autism Treatment and Research, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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