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How to help your child through surgery and recovery

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

Helping Your Child Through Surgery and Recovery.

It’s stressful enough having to go through surgery as an adult. However, any parent would agree that when their child has to have surgery, it’s an incredibly difficult time. The anxiety level is at an all-time high as you try to reassure your child that everything will be fine, while trying to mask your own fears for your child. Even if it’s a routine procedure, that doesn’t mean it’s routine for you and your child. Preparing your child for surgery is key to making sure your child is less anxious and you both get through the procedure calmly.

Ask questions

The more you know, the calmer you will be, and the calmer your child will be. That’s why it’s so important to ask questions of the doctors and nurses so you can better prepare your child. If you understand what’s going to happen, step by step, then you will be calmer about the situation. Kids sense when mom or dad are worried or stressed out and if you are calm, cool and collected that will help immensely.

Be open and honest

You may think you are doing your child a favor by keeping details from her about what is going to happen. But that may actually lead to more concern and anxiety and your child may think the problem is worse than it actually is. In a calm manner, explain what is going to happen in terms your child can understand and relate to. For younger children, use terms such as ‘the doctor is going to make you better’ or ‘fix the problem.’ Children may think their parents aren’t telling them the whole story and it’s important to build trust and explain the situation in terms they can understand.

Ease fears

Being fearful of surgery isn’t something that just young children experience. Pre-teens and teens may be anxious and worried as well and manifest that worry in different ways. Whether your child is six or 16, the best thing to do is anticipate their concerns and let them know fear and anxiety is normal at any age – including into adulthood. The most common fear is of the pain that may have. For younger children, explain to your child that a special doctor, the anesthesiologist, gives medicine to make sure patients will not feel anything during surgery. Older children may be afraid that they will wake up during surgery or not at all. Explain to your child that anesthesia is very safe and she does not need to worry.

Be their advocate

Before, during and after surgery be your child’s advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you understand everything that will be happening. During recovery it’s important to let your child know that there may be pain and if that’s the case to tell you, the nurses or doctors and they will give him something to make it feel better.

The most important thing to remember is that your child will take cues from you. Your tone, facial expressions, and body language will convey how you are handling the situation. If you appear calm and confident, your child is likely to have an easier time getting through surgery and recovery.

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Scott Ferry, MD

I'm a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, a husband, and a father to four children. At the end of the day, my goal is to make people's lives better.


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