Preparing your Child for Surgery
Your child needs elective surgery and a date has been scheduled. Unlike emergency surgery, an elective procedure isn't done as an immediate matter of life and death. Having an elective procedure gives you the time to prepare your child psychologically for the hospital and the surgery.
Good preparation can help kids feel less anxious about the anesthesia and surgery and get through the recovery period faster. But, like parents everywhere, you're probably uncertain about the best way to prepare your child.
The key is to provide information at your child's level of understanding, correct misunderstandings, and get rid of fears and feelings of guilt. Help your child understand why the surgery is needed and become familiar with the hospital and some of the procedures he or she will undergo.
Kids of all ages cope much better if they have an idea of what's going to happen and why it's necessary. To do that, prepare yourself first and correct any misconceptions of your own. If a parent is anxious and nervous, a child will often reflect these feelings and behaviors as well. It's a good idea to educate yourself, feel comfortable with the process, and make sure all your questions are answered.
The horror stories you heard from grandparents and parents about traumatic parent/child separations and very limited hospital visiting hours belong to days gone by. Hospitals have changed enormously and have become more family-friendly and patient-centered. For example, many surgeries are now "same-day" procedures requiring no overnight or prolonged stays; most kids are back home, in their own beds, the same night.
Furthermore, most U.S. hospitals permit at least one parent to stay with the child at all times except during the operation. After the surgery, you may return to your child in the recovery room. As your child awakens, he or she will not even realize you left.
Ask the doctors, nurses, or staff for the information you need about what will take place so that you can prepare your child and deal with your own fears or concerns. To parents, one of the most fearful aspects of surgery is anesthesia. Anesthesia is much safer today than in the past, but still carries some risk. You should discuss any concerns you have in advance with the anesthesiologist.
When hospitalization is required overnight or longer, most hospitals avoid separation anxiety by permitting at least one parent to stay with the child day and night. Check with the hospital about its rules regarding parents staying over and when other close family members can visit.
As soon as your child is able, he or she may be playing with other children, toys, and games in a children's recreation room — even if that involves taking along an intravenous (IV) bag on a rolling support.
Share this article