Tips For Children Undergoing Surgery

Pediatric surgery is an often a very scary situation for many families. Most of the fear comes from the unknown and the added stress of the patient being a child. As grown-ups, we have a protective instinct and surgical procedures are completely out of our control and left up to the skilled pediatric surgeons. Even though the child is the one going through the surgical process, parents can be just as anxious. To help quell some fears here are some tips to help families prepare for pediatric surgery.

Take Care of Yourself

When a child undergoes surgery, it is a stressful and scary time. Children take most of their emotional cues from adults. They easily pick up on your stress, anxiety, and fear, and match these emotions. It is important to remember that you are leading by example and behave as such. Ask your child’s surgical team all of your questions about the upcoming surgery. The more information you have, the easier it is to set aside the fears you may have and reduce your stress. Caring for your own emotional well-being will allow you to be more present before, during, and after surgery so that you can better care for your child.

Talk It Out

Take the time to explain the details of the procedure to your child in terms that they can understand. Ask them about how they feel about it all and clear up any misconceptions they may have. Some children believe surgery is a punishment or have a fear of the hospital due to previous experiences, so it is important to address these things. When you’re honest with your child, they will trust you and their pediatric surgical team more.

Consider Your Words

When you are explaining surgery and anesthesia to your child, it is important for you to choose your words very carefully. Children often interpret words literally. For instance, when you explain anesthesia, avoid using the phrase ‘put you to sleep,’ because it may be correlated to a family pet that was ‘put to sleep’ and never came home. Steer clear of words like ‘cut,’ or “stitch,” and replace them with something softer like ‘make an opening’ and ‘close.’

Preoperative Tour

Children are naturally curious. You can help them feel more comfortable by allowing them to explore these curiosities by scheduling a tour of the facility before surgery. This gives your child a chance to get familiar with the medical equipment they’ll be around and ask any questions they may have. This allows them to go to a familiar place with familiar faces the day of surgery that will help reduce fear.

Let Them Play

It’s important for kids to be able to play and explore. This helps them better understand the situation which will help retain a sense of normalcy when they undergo something scary. Allowing them to play will help reduce the fear associated with surgical instruments and post-operative situations.

Make Them Comfortable

Bring things from home that will make them more comfortable in the hospital, both before and after surgery. Bringing their favorite blanket, book, and stuffed animals will give them a familiar feeling of home. Even babies take comfort in the familiar. You can take a blanket or a loved one’s T-shirt that smells like them to help them stay relaxed. Touch goes a long way to help provide comfort. Hold and snuggle them as you can, and if you can’t, running your fingers through their hair or holding their hand, even when they are unconscious, can help provide reassurance and comfort.

Be With Them

Few things are scarier for young children than being apart from their parents. Help reassure them by being with them as much as possible. You probably won’t be able to be in the operating room, but ask if you can stay with them until they fall asleep. If you’re in the room when anesthesia is administered and you are there when they wake up, it will seem like you never left.

No matter how routine or serious a surgery is, it can be very scary for parents and kids alike. The pediatric surgical team at Alaska Pediatric Surgery knows this and will do everything possible to help make things more comfortable for you and your child. Contact us to schedule your child’s surgical consult today.