Adolescent test or procedure preparation

Alternative names
Test/procedure preparation - adolescent; Preparing adolescent for test/procedure

Proper preparations for a test or procedure can reduce an adolescent’s anxiety, encourage cooperation, and help the child develop coping skills.


There are a number of ways to help an adolescent prepare for a medical test or procedure.

First, provide detailed information and explain reasons for the procedure. Let your child participate in making as many decisions as possible.

Explain the procedure in correct medical terminology, and provide the reason for the test (ask your provider to explain if you are not sure). Understanding the need for the procedure may reduce your child’s anxiety about it.

To the best of your ability, describe how the test will feel. Allow your child to practice the positions or movements that will be required for the particular test, such as the fetal position for a lumbar puncture.

Be honest about discomfort that may be felt, but don’t dwell on the topic. It may help to stress the benefits of the procedure, and that you will have more information when the results are in. Talk about things that the child may find pleasurable after the test, such as feeling better, or going home. Rewards, such as shopping trips or movies, may be helpful if the child is able to enjoy them.

To the best of your ability, describe the operation of equipment that will be involved in concrete, literal terms.

Suggest ways for the child stay calm:

  • Counting  
  • Deep breathing  
  • Relaxation (thinking pleasant thoughts)  
  • Holding the hand of the parent (or someone else) during the procedure

Include your child in the decision-making process, such as the time of day or the date the procedure is performed. When possible, let your child make some decisions. The more control a person feels over a procedure, the less painful and anxiety-producing it is likely to be.

Allow your child to participate in simple tasks. Encourage participation during the procedure, such as holding an instrument, if allowed. Let your child hold your hand (or the hand of someone else in the room) for comfort, as it can actually reduce pain by reducing anxiety and providing distraction.

Discuss potential risks. Adolescents commonly have elevated concerns about risks, particularly about any effects on appearance, mental function, and sexuality. Address these fears honestly and openly if at all possible. Provide information about any appearance changes or other possible side effects that may result from the test.

Older children may benefit from videos that demonstrate children of the same age explaining and undergoing the procedure. Ask your health care provider if such films are available for your child’s viewing.

If the procedure is performed at the hospital or your health care provider’s office, ask the provider if you may be present with your child. However, if your child does not want you to be present, and it is best to honor this wish. Out of respect for your child’s growing need for privacy, do not allow peers or siblings to view the procedure unless the adolescent wants them to be present.

Other considerations:

  • Ask your health care provider to limit the number of strangers entering and leaving the room during the procedure, since this can raise anxiety.  
  • Ask that the provider who has spent the most time with your child be present during the procedure, if possible.  
  • Your adolescent may have difficulty with a new authority figure entering the situation. This complication can be minimized if a familiar provider performs the test. Otherwise, your child may offer some resistance to the procedure. Prepare the child in advance for the possibility that the test will be performed by someone unfamiliar, if this is likely to happen.  
  • Ask that anesthesia be used as appropriate to reduce the level of discomfort for your child.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.