How To Prepare Your Child Before You Go Into Surgery

by Lucy
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If you are about to have surgery, it can be really overwhelming to process for yourself, let alone needing to speak to your child and explain what is happening. It’s expected that this is going to impact them in some way and you want to make sure that you frame it right to reduce the worry or fear that they feel while still being honest.

Knowing what is happening and having the space to ask questions can really help children process what is going on, so creating this environment is the best course of action. It’s also important to remember that you might not have all of the answers, but just communicating with your child is what they need from you.

parent holding child's hand as they prepare for surgery |
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Be Honest With Them

One of the best things you can do when preparing a child for your surgery is, to be honest with them. Without going into detail about potential risks or complications, the conversation might look something like this:

“Because I haven’t been feeling very well, the doctor is going to operate to help me feel better. Lots of people have the operation and all they do is put me to sleep and make a small opening to get to the part of my body they need to, then close it up when they’re done. I’ll have bandages to help me heal and then you’ll need to be gentle around me for a few weeks while I get better. I’ll wake up from the operation and maybe be in the hospital for one or two nights, but you’ll be with (the person looking after them) and then I’ll see you really soon afterwards.”

It’s important to just reiterate that they don’t need to worry, that you’re okay and that the doctors and nurses are really experienced to help keep you safe. It’s also a good way to see how your children react to sensitive issues; for example, if they are hysterical, you can find new ways of calming them down so that in the future they can learn how to appropriately handle these kinds of emotions.

Also, it’s a perfect way to educate your children on not only why people undergo surgery but also how many people do it day-to-day. This can give them a real insight into the real world and maybe perk up their interest in other adult things, which is good for their development.

Have A Role For Your Child After Surgery

One feeling that your child may feel throughout the process is wanting to help, so before the surgery, you can say to them that they can be there to help make drinks, bring snacks or that you’d love them to draw a get-well-soon picture for you when you’re in the hospital. This will help them feel like they’re helping and it will also keep them occupied for some time while you’re away. You can even suggest that they help remind you of any medications or recovery supplements you need after the surgery. You could also ask them to plan a day out for you to do together once you feel better, perhaps a trip to the zoo, a fun summer activity or a visit to their favorite place to go for cake. This also reiterates to them that you’re going to be okay.

Make Sure To Highlight The Safety Element

Something that can really help put a child’s mind at ease is if you highlight the safety elements of the treatment. Make sure that you highlight how there will be a pulse checker on your finger, your blood pressure will be checked, you’ll have an IV to keep your body hydrated and you’ll have the medicine you need, as well as the nurses and doctors doing these operations all the time and knowing exactly what they’re doing.

Check If They Have Any Questions

It’s also important that you check if your child has any questions to make sure they have processed the information and know what’s happening. You can also ask them to tell you what they understand about the situation, to see it from their perspective and to fill in any gaps that they might have missed. If they’ve never known anyone to have had an operation before, this can be a new and confusing thing, so guiding them through the process, answering questions and checking they understand what’s going on is important.

Communication is always key; it’s not always that your children will have an explosive reaction because they are upset. Especially when I was a child, I didn’t like for anyone to see my emotions but I was glad when my mother would pull me to the side and spark up a conversation. Encouraging questions can also take the fear and the unknown away from them, and seeing you so open and willing to talk about it can also be another form of reassurance that it isn’t a big deal and you will be coming back to them.

Choose The Right Time To Tell Them

You should also consider the right time to tell your child. Rather than it being a quick passing conversation on the way back from school or when they’re tired or generally not in a great mood, try to catch them at a time when they tend to be quite settled and not distracted. For children in primary school, try to tell them at least a week or two weeks before the surgery for them to process it and ask any more questions they may have later down the line. The more relaxed you can be about it, the more relaxed and reassured they will feel.

Final Thoughts

Every surgery is different, whether you’re having cosmetic surgery or knee surgery, and all come with a different element of risk; however, you just need to explain to your child and reassure them that everything will be okay. It’s best to avoid mentions of the risks, especially to young children, as this will only cause confusion and fear that won’t help with the overall outcome.

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