Pediatric surgery is an often scary-yet-necessary situation for many families. While it may be the child that is going through an operation, parents can be just as anxious about the procedure. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some tips to help parents and kids alike when preparing for surgery. These tips will help make the process less stressful for everyone involved. If your child needs surgery, call Alaska Pediatric Surgery in Anchorage today.
Take Care of Yourself
When your child needs surgery, it can be incredibly stressful and scary. With that said, children take a lot of their emotional cues from their parents when they’re young. They can pick up on your stress, anxiety, and fear, and react in kind. This makes it important for you to lead by example. Ask the team any and all of your questions about the surgery. When you have more information, you can set aside the fears you and your child might have. You can help your child have a more successful surgery and recovery by taking care of your emotional well-being.
Talk It Out
Take the time to explain to your child why they’re going to the hospital, why they need a procedure, and when it will happen. Ask them about how they feel about the situation so you can clear up any misconceptions they might have. Some kids might feel like surgery is a punishment or have a fear of the hospital because of an experience with a grandparent in the past. When you’re honest with your child, they will trust both you and the healthcare team more about the situation. If you’re ever not sure about how to explain something, the healthcare team will be able to help out.
Consider Your Words
When you are explaining the surgery and anesthesia to your child, it’s important for you to choose your words carefully. Kids don’t have the life experience that helps them understand turns of phrase, so they often interpret words literally. For instance, when describing anesthesia, avoid saying ‘put you to sleep,’ because there might be an attachment to that phrase related to a family pet that had to be ‘put to sleep.’ This extends to words that might be scary, as you can often replace them with something a bit softer. Steer clear of a word, like ‘cut,’ and replace it with ‘make an opening’.
Kids handle undergoing surgery much better when they feel prepared. You can help them feel more prepared by scheduling a tour of the facility prior to surgery day. This gives your child a chance to see where they’ll be staying, meet the healthcare team, get familiar with the medical equipment they’ll be around, and ask any questions they might have. This will help avoid the fear that can come from being in an unfamiliar environment that children don’t fully understand.
Let Them Play
It’s important for kids to be able to play and laugh when they’re facing surgery. This helps them retain that normal feeling in their life when they’re about to undergo something scary. Give them hugs, because there isn’t much that’s better than some tender loving care when in the hospital.
Make Them Comfortable
This goes hand in hand with letting your child play and laugh. Bring the things from home that will make them more comfortable in the hospital. Depending on the operation, it might be a little while before they can get back to their room. Bringing their favorite toys, blanket, movies, books, stuffed animals, and games will give them those touchpoints back to the familiar feeling of home. It goes even deeper than just things that look familiar, as familiar scents can help them be more comfortable as well. Even babies find reassurance when they’re surrounded by things that are familiar. You can often leave a blanket or a parent’s T-shirt that smells like them with a child to help them stay comfortable and relaxed.
Be With Them
Few things are scarier for young kids than being apart from their parents, especially when they’re going to the hospital. Help reassure them by being with them as much as possible. You won’t be able to stay in the room during the operation, but ask if you can at least stay with them until they fall asleep. This will depend on your child’s age, the type of procedure, and your child’s medical history. If you’re in the room with them when the anesthesia is administered and you come back in after the procedure, it will seem like you never left when they wake up. Any way that you can minimize the separation anxiety that comes with going through surgery helps make the procedure go smoother and helps kids avoid traumatic feelings about the situation. When children don’t handle separation well, they can regress from development milestones they have achieved. This can lead to children wetting the bed, even after they have been potty-trained.
No matter how routine or serious a surgery is, it can be very scary for parents and kids alike. Keep these tips in mind to help make the process a stress-free one. If you would like to learn more tips about helping your child get through a surgery, please call Alaska Pediatric Surgery. With years of experience, our team is well-versed in how to discuss serious topics with kids in a way that minimizes fear and increases understanding of the situation. We’re here to help you with whatever you need.