Provide age-appropriate information
The older your child, the more important it is to provide specific information about the upcoming surgery. Tell your child that he or she will be in unfamiliar surroundings but will meet many friendly doctors and nurses and that you will be nearby even if you’re not in the room. Ask your doctor for advice on communicating the specifics of the surgery to your child. There are online resources and books at the library about many procedures, but be sure your child does not research his or her condition without you present to explain it and allay any fears.
Accentuate the positive
The surgery should be conveyed as positively as possible. Explain to your child that while it may be uncomfortable, it is only temporary and unfortunately necessary to make him or her feel better in the long run. Assure your child that the doctors and nurses are there to help him or her and will do everything to minimize the any discomfort they may feel. Explain to your child that they will not feel the surgery itself or remember it.
Prepare your child for after surgery
Tell your child it is normal for them not to remember anything about the procedure. Let them know that there will be some discomfort after surgery, but that it will get better every day and that you will have medicine to make them feel better.
Rally family and friends to provide encouragement
Children relish positive attention. Best wishes in the form of visits, phone calls or cards from family and friends can really lift a child’s spirits. Consider promising a special party or treat for the child to look forward to after surgery.
The day of surgery
Make a plan to distract your child until it is time to have the procedure. If possible, pack a bag of toys or books to keep him or her occupied. Be upbeat, and do not let your child sense your anxiety.
Work with the surgical team
The anesthesiologist and the entire surgical team have your child's best interest in mind. Be open and honest with them so they can make the best decisions for your child. The anesthesiologist is experienced in preparing children for surgery. Let him or her help you to keep your child calm.
Children are greatly influenced by their parents actions and reactions. Independent of their age, they are surprisingly adept at interpreting body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. Nothing calms your child more than a calm parent. Although it is understandable for you to be anxious when your child is having surgery, try not to show it. Presenting a calm and positive demeanor will have a calming and positive influence on your child.
After a successful surgical procedure, it is easy to fall back into the daily routine and forget to watch for post-surgical complications. Although rare, complications do occur and often a while after the procedure. It is very important to follow the physician's post-operative instructions.
If you are unclear about the instructions or have concerns regarding the speed of recovery, call your physician. He or she is your partner in the care of your child so do not hesitate to call them and have your concerns addressed.
Having a child undergo surgery can be very stressful on a parent. Since you are the primary source of comfort for your child, it is very important that you take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and seek support from friends and family. Accept offers of help with everyday chores so you can focus on your child. Manage your stress throughout the process and seek professional help if necessary.