Knowing that your child needs surgery, no matter how major or minor, is gut-wrenching for us parents. And we can’t even imagine what goes through the heads of our precious little ones. Not too long ago, we found out that our youngest needed surgery (a minor one albeit). I’m not going to lie, I’d have rather eaten a worm than tell her. We are quite fortunate that reason works well with her, as her level of intelligence allows for that. Her anxiety, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. Add to that a medical condition which makes anesthesia complicated, and you have a very freaked-out Mama on your hands.
I have a few simple tips for helping your child prepare for surgery:
- Get the facts. Know what is going down so that you can explain it all in a positive, kid-friendly way.
- Use your judgement when talking to your child. (Example – if you know your child is a control freak, you may opt out of telling them that anesthesia will put them to sleep.)
- Be sure to talk with your doctor so that everyone is on the same page about the verbiage you wish to be used with your child!
- This may seem obvious, but relay EVERY medical condition that you are aware of. A good doctor will be thorough will all info that you provide. (Our anesthesiologist had never heard of our daughter’s condition before, as it is rare. Had I not researched the condition+ anesthesia, I would have never known that receiving Nitrous Oxide could have killed her. Our anesthesiologist was grateful that I shared this and did his own research as well. We spoke nearly every day leading up to surgery to develop a plan that was safe for her and we both felt comfortable with.)
- Do a walk-through. If the facility will allow it, take a practice tour of exactly what you’ll do each step. Start in the waiting room, go through the area where they weigh & take temps. Then walk to the surgical room. And on to the recovery room. Seeing it all beforehand makes it much less scary!
- Don’t lie! They will likely have some pain or discomfort afterwards – don’t tell them that it won’t hurt.
- Practice. People coming at you with blue head coverings. Breathing into a mask. It can all be a very scary thing for kids (and the gas STINKS!). Play a game by putting on your own hair coverings and using a surgical mask (like this one) to breathe in and out of. Take turns being the nurse and the patient. And the masks can be used again for dress-up play later!
- Stay calm. When you freak out, your kids notice. Leave the waterworks for the waiting room.
We made it through with lots of preparation and prayer. (You better believe I cried and prayed throughout the entire surgery! I either converted the whole room or they thought I was a lunatic.) But when it came time for recovery, I was calm and ready to help her wake up. She had a great experience, thanks to the wonderful medical staff and their willingness to help make it go as smooth as possible. Now, she wants to be an emergency room doctor!