How to prepare your child for a surgery

Created by:

5 Jul 2018 - General

Any kind of a surgery can be very stressful experience, especially for children. If your child needs to go to the hospital for a specific procedure, they might not be able to fully understand by themselves all the related issues. This is where adults need to play an important role in explaining, calming down and comforting about everything that might seem too frightening for a child.

What can you do as a parent?

Here are the most important instances that you may follow in order to prepare your child for a surgery:

-          Acknowledge for yourself everything that you need to know about the upcoming experience in the specific hospital

-          Talk openly and honestly to your child and explain expected happenings using age-appropriate information

-          Try not to feel worried and anxious about the surgery while talking to your child, as they can easily sense and reflect your feelings

-          Be patient and answer all the questions your child may have, over and over again if it is necessary

-          Include other family members during the preparation period, especially brothers and sisters

Pre-hospital talk

Make sure that you talk to your child on time. Don’t wait for the last minute to then explain everything in a few words. That can be overwhelming for a child and it can cause a counter-effect. Instead of that, go through the surgery topics with your kid in advance, and try to help them cope with the upcoming procedure.

Depending on a difficulty of a medical problem, your approach may be more or less serious, but in each and every case choose your words carefully. Try not to use alarming sentences, but rather comforting language, along with the calm tone of voice.

For example, if your child is going to remove tonsils, you can tell them they will be allowed to eat a lot of ice cream afterward and have less sore throats in the future.

If your toddler or a preschooler is suffering from a much more serious medical condition, such as child obesity, a need for an organ transplantation, or any kind of cancer, make sure to approach the issue in a comprehensive way.

Find all the materials about the medical condition you can get and read them together with your kid. Ask a doctor about the video and multimedia prepared specifically for children. Get to know all the answers that you might want to know about it, and be available for all of your child’s questions.

Preparing for anesthesia

Anesthesia is commonly the hardest part to explain, as it is a big unknown to children. As a parent, you might also feel uncertain about its safety and potential risks.

It is extremely important that you talk to the anesthesiologist first. Make sure to get rid of your fears about it, and get to know the exact method they are going to use for your child. The usual procedure for children doesn’t include intravenous injection, but rather consists of anesthesia taken by the spoon as a medicine or being inhaled through the anesthesia mask. 

The biggest issue about the anesthesia is the waking up. Try to explain it in simple and calming words. You can tell your kid that he or she is going to fall asleep so deeply that they will not feel the pain nor be uncomfortable in any way.

Do mention that they are definitely not going to wake up during the surgery and that they will wake up afterward. 


Hospital experience

Separation during the surgery is another important issue to discuss. Luckily, many pediatric clinics worldwide are patient-oriented and family-friendly, and they allow at least one of the parents to stay with a child throughout days and nights. So, rest assured that you will most certainly be able to be there, especially for young kids.

Try to stay with your child as long as you can before the surgery. More importantly, try to be there when they wake up.

After the anesthesia, your child will not know what exactly has happened. The minute they wake up, they may not even be aware of the fact they have gone through the surgery. It can be really confusing, especially for pre-school children who have been through a complex procedure. So, give your best to be there in a recovery room.

If a hospital doesn’t allow parents to be beside their children after the surgery, consider changing the hospital and finding the one that provides more meaningful care. A huge benefit will also be if a clinic is having a playroom for children with various toys and games. In that case, you can additionally calm your child during the preparation period by telling them they are going to play there and have a possibility to meet new friends.

The best international hospitals specialized in pediatric surgery usually offer special programs for children, such as pre-operation tours, family orientation, and various other programs led by licensed child-life specialists who are trained to talk to kids about medical procedures and give them an extra support.

Having such thoughtful medical care for your child can be truly significant. It can make your kid feel much less fear about the surgery and the hospital experience as a whole.