No one likes having surgery. The fear of the unknown, how much pain it might cause in recovery, and how long the recuperation process will take are all common fears. But when children have to have surgery, their fears can be compounded. Adults usually at least know what to basically expect and can put into words their concerns. Children, especially if they are quite young, don't always have this ability. If your child needs to have surgery, here are some tips for helping them prepare for it.
1. Stay Calm
The most helpful thing you can do is to stay calm yourself. Even if you are extremely nervous, do your best not to let it spillover in your child's presence. Kids have an uncanny knack of picking up on adults' emotions, and if they think you have reason to be worried, they will worry, too.
First, educate yourself. Ask the doctor and nurses for any pamphlets they might have on the procedure your child will be having. Once you have a thorough understanding what is going to be done, you can then explain it to your child in terms they will understand and is appropriate for their age.
In addition to educating your child on the procedure itself, you will want to keep the lines of communication open so they can ask whatever questions that arise. For some children, not telling them until a day or two before the procedure is best. This way, if your child is prone to anxiety, they will have less time to let their imagination run away with them and cause excess worry. Don't bombard them with too much information their brains can't process.
Older children should be given more time to process what is happening as they will naturally have more mature thoughts on the matter, including life and death concerns. For many children, this may be the first time they think about these things, and it's important to reassure them but also use as a teaching moment regarding the hard things in life. The journey is unpredictable, things don't always go as planned, but hope and acceptance can carry people through.
4. Get A Tour
Ask the child surgical center if it is possible to take a tour of the facility where the child will be having the procedure and recuperating. Knowing what to expect can make it a lot easier for everyone.
5. Buy Recovery Gifts
Let your child know you will have a few special gifts for them to open once they come out of surgery. Choose things like a new pair of slippers or fuzzy socks, a robe, a special stuffed animal, or a book.