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Preparing Your Child for Surgery

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Preparing Child For Surgery Child

Although we all hope that our children never need to go into hospital for surgery, there is actually a very significant chance that, at some point, you’ll need to take your child into hospital even if it’s just as the result of some bumps, bruises or cuts which may require hospital treatment.

Whatever the reasons for you needing to take your child into hospital, they are bound to be nervous and worried and even more so if they have to be admitted to undergo some kind of surgical procedure.

However, there are some things you can do to prepare your child for the ordeal and this article aims to highlight some of those as well as giving you an indication of what your child is likely to be experiencing emotionally. The advice contained here is aimed more at younger children but can be adapted to suit a slightly older child.

Preparing Your Child

There are plenty of books and internet resources available these days which are specifically designed and targeted towards young children so you should try to get hold of some of these which you’ll be able to read through with your child which will explain to them the operation they are going to have in a language which they’ll understand. This then gives them some kind of indication of what they’re likely to expect.

It’s useful do this as without having any reference points to understand what lies ahead, a child can often build up frightening mental images of what they think they’re going to be faced with, which can make them have nightmares and become worried even more.

You should also see if it’s possible to arrange a visit to the hospital with your child prior to the surgery and an understanding school will almost certainly grant you permission to take your child out of school for the day in order to do this. At the hospital visit, your child should be shown around the hospital, particularly the ward they’ll be staying on, and this will help them get familiarised with the environment.

On The Day of Surgery

You need to make sure that you’re constantly with your child on the day of surgery itself. They will be very nervous and will be totally reliant on your support and comfort. The hospital is likely to allow them to bring a few of their own toys or comfort items like teddy bears with them but check first to see what’s permitted.

You’ll be given enough time to settle your child into the ward and to maybe play with them for a little while in order to settle them down. It’s very possible that your child may get extremely upset and may even throw a tantrum but it’s important that you stay calm and try to offer them constant reassurance and comfort in words and in the form of cuddles.

Don’t lie to your child if they ask you if something is going to hurt if you know it is. Rather, you should explain to them how medicine will be given to them to make them feel less or even no pain depending on the type of anaesthetic they are going to have. If they’re having general anaesthetic, you can simply tell them that the medicine they’ll be getting will simply make them fall into a deep sleep for a while and that they won’t feel a thing.

Things To Be Aware Of

No matter how well you’ve prepared your child in advance of the surgery and on the day it’s taking place, you should be prepared to expect a difference in behaviour and personality of your child, especially on the day of surgery itself. All you can do is to try to reassure them that everything will be OK but here’s a list of things that can have a direct bearing on a child as a result of the hospital experience:

  • Many strange faces suddenly coming into their life
  • Strange sights, sounds and new smells
  • Different routines and eating unfamiliar meals

This can result in:

  • Crying a lot and throwing tantrums
  • Suffering nightmares and refusing to eat
  • Becoming withdrawn and developing a mistrust of adults
  • Return to early stages of development e.g. bed wetting and thumb sucking

Hospital staff have seen all this before and between the hospital staff and you, the best way to deal with any of these problems is to show them lots of love and reassurance, give them cuddles, try to make them laugh and play with them. Nurses who specialise in working with young children will be able to advise you about things you can do to make the experience less traumatic for your child.

Finally, it’s also important to remember that once the surgery is over and your child is back at home, some children will simply get on with their lives as normal, others will see the experience as an act of bravery and heroism and feel as though they can take on the world whilst others may become quite withdrawn or become naughty or uncooperative and mistrusting.

However, this is likely to ebb away within a few weeks or so after surgery. In the meantime, you simply need to keep showing your love and support for your child until things get back to normal.

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