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Preparing for Surgery

Surgery for a child is always a difficult experience for the entire family. Parents often ask the physician questions regarding the most appropriate way to prepare their child for the event. The details of course will vary with the child’s age and type of surgery, but the following are some suggestions:

Keep the ‘Worry Time’ short.

It is appropriate to introduce the topic to the child only one to two weeks before the scheduled date.

Keep it Simple.

Your explanation of the surgery should be delivered in the simplest terms possible.

Emphasize the Positive.

Discuss with them the good things about being in the hospital such as popsicles, the playroom, and having Mom and Dad all to themselves.

Be Honest.

Do not tell a child something which is not true; they must trust you.

Be There.

Plan to spend as much time as possible with your child in the hospital.

Get Support.

This is a time when you should capitalize on relatives and friend’s help with other children, housework, or other tasks.

Play and Observe.

Play therapy is a great outlet for a child to express feelings. Remember that playing is a child’s job and a great outlet.

Expect Anger.

Often, and very early in the post-operative period, the child will express their frustrations through anger most often directed at the parent. Be patient as this phase will pass and is normal and healthy.

Use Resources.

There are many good books available for children and for parents regarding the subject of hospitalization. The skill and experience of a child life therapist at the hospital could benefit your child.

Be Flexible.

Surgery will require a lot of planning and preparation and generally things go along as planned. Remember, however, sometimes there are cancellations.

Additional resources available upon request.

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