How to Emotionally Prepare Your Child for Surgery
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How to Emotionally Prepare Your Child for Surgery

A childÂ’s unique life experiences, personality and perceptions all contribute to his or her individual outlook on an operation. How can parents help to prepare their child for an impending surgery?

Surgery can be a scary concept for adults; it can be even more frightening for children. A child expecting a surgery is venturing into a world of many unknowns. Surgery brings not only physical challenges, but emotional ones as well.

A child’s unique life experiences, personality and perceptions all contribute to his or her individual outlook on an operation. How can parents help to prepare their child for an impending surgery? While every child is different, there are ways to ease the anxieties and smooth the pathway to surgery.

Choosing a Surgeon

Generally, unless your child’s pediatrician is also a surgeon specializing on your child’s condition, he or she will not be handling the surgery. Politely remind your child’s doctor of your child’s greatest personal need before obtaining a recommendation on prospective surgeons.

If your child is hyperactive, it would be good to ask which doctor works best with active children; or ask which surgeon can be recommended for very shy children.

Questions such as these will serve to freshen your doctor’s memory on your child’s behavior and help him recommend appropriately. In some instances, of course, choices are limited; but if you have options, choose wisely.

Be honest with your child.

When helping a child diminish the fear of the unknown, truth is a necessary preparatory tool. A child who knows what to expect, has the ability to react more calmly.

Explain step by step what will happen before, during, and after the surgery. Give your child all the details he or she wants and can understand. Most of the anxiety is brought by not understanding the procedures. Explain that there will be pain, but that pain will go away. Acknowledge the negatives, but always follow up with a positive.

Expect a lot of questions from your child before the surgery date arrives:

“How will they put me to sleep?” If you don’t know, call and ask your doctor.

“Will it hurt?” Again, answer honestly, but do balance your answer. Explain which procedures will hurt a little or a lot (like insertions of intravenous needles) and which procedures will not hurt at all (X-rays, anesthesia). Also remind your child the reasons why the surgery is needed and how much better he or she will feel eventually.

“Will I die?”

This is the toughest question of all. If your child has known of someone who has died in the hospital, you will probably have to face this question. Realistically, we all know that some risk is involved in any surgical procedure. Parents have different ways of comforting their child when faced with this question. Some parents would answer their child by explaining that God loves him or her and would be watching out for him or her.  This is good, too; then pray together with your child. It would also help if you as parents do not look so gloomy when faced with this situation. Your child gets his or her emotional strength from you.

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Comments (4)

very terrifying time for a child. good suggestions

Some parents are too afraid to provide the support that's needed. This is a good article for parent's to read.

Good article. Thankfully, this topic is much more realistic than when I was a child. Not only did the parent(s) often not prepare or explain anything to prepare the child, but very often, it wasn't their fault because the medical practitioners didn't communicate with them. Sometimes very little, sometimes not at all. There was a blind trust between the doctors, patients and parents. Don't ask....just trust because the doctor knows. I'm sure a lot of kids today are still having emotional reactions out of ordinary fear, but members of my generation never knew we were having something done to us, or why. I hope you get a LOT of votes, here. Best, .imz

Good article!