For a child, the idea of having surgery can be scary. For the parents, the idea is equally terrifying. There are so many things to consider to prepare for surgery, including handling emotions. Whether the surgery is planned in advance or is needed on short notice, you’ll want to address it with your child beforehand. As a parent, you want to soothe your child and make them feel as confident as possible that once the surgery is over, things will be better.
Here are some tips for preparing your child for surgery so your whole family can reduce stress and have a safe experience.
Explain the Process to Your Child
How indepth you go depends on your child’s age. You can be more direct about it if your child is a teenager and better understands the condition causing them to need surgery. You can also involve them in the conversations with the doctor to make them feel more in control of their health.
But for younger children, you’ll want to be careful how you phrase parts of the procedure so you don’t cause more fear and anxiety. The most important thing is for them to understand that once the surgery is over and they are healed, they will feel better. Be cautious about how you word your description of the procedure, and avoid using words that might frighten little ones such as “cut you open” or “knock you out.”
Sometimes children feel their parents and doctor are withholding information and the condition is worse than they think it is, so tell your child as much of the truth as they are able to comprehend for their age.
Ask and Answer Their Questions
You will likely have questions for the doctors before the surgery, and your child is likely asking you questions you may not have answers for yet. Take the time to ask doctors, nurses or other staff members the questions you need answered so you can address your own concerns and assure your child. Depending on their age and ability to understand their procedure, encourage your child to be involved in asking questions. This can help you and your child understand the situation together and provide some level of comfort and confidence as you approach the day of surgery.
When asking questions, be sure to consider asking about:
- The procedure itself and your child’s condition
- Any side effects
- What to expect during recovery
- Any hospital policies you should know about
- Visiting hours for family members
- Items to bring
- Any concerns you have about your child’s health
Prepare Yourself as a Parent
As you work to comfort your child, you are likely feeling many emotions yourself. Watching your child go through a health problem is very difficult for parents, and you need support too. Let yourself feel whatever feelings you are experiencing and work through them before you address your child’s fears and concerns. This can easily be done by educating yourself on your child’s condition and the operation they’re having. Depending on the condition, there are likely support groups available online where you can ask questions or read about others’ experiences.
Read doctor and hospital reviews and talk to the doctors about any concerns you have. Doctors will often take phone calls from minor patients’ parents if you would like to discuss anything without being in the presence of your child.
Lastly, take care of yourself ahead of the procedure. While this may seem difficult to do, get enough sleep and eat well to ensure you are best equipped to take care of your child before and after their surgery.
Pick Out a Comfort Item Together
For younger children, this could be their favorite toy or blanket that will serve as a form of security before and after the procedure. Keep it with them until they go into surgery, take it with you while you wait for him or her, and bring it to them so it’s there when they wake up.
For older children, this could be something you give them as a symbol of strength and can be transported in the same way before, during and after the procedure. It could be in the form of matching bracelets for you and your child or another meaningful object that represents a favorite pastime, vacation spot or other special memory. It can give them hope that there are things to look forward to after they’ve recovered.
Surgery is never easy and only brings more challenges when it’s for your child. As you prepare, keep in mind the situation will be over with soon and your family will be able to more forward, healthier than before.
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