Preparing Your Child for Surgery
Arrange a Visit
What to Do for Your Child
- Ask if you can stay with your child during medical procedures. Most hospitals permit at least one parent to stay with the child at all times except during an operation. Stay for as long as possible. Comfort your child by touching him, singing, or using any soothing techniques that have been effective in the past.
- Bring two or three familiar objects from home. Familiar toys, stuffed animals, pictures of family members or pets, or a favorite blanket can go a long way toward comforting a young child before and after a medical procedure.
- Familiarize your child with what to expect before the hospital visit. There are different books and videos that can help prepare your child for surgery. Role-playing may also help. Take turns pretending to be the doctor, examining a doll or stuffed animal.
- Respect his boundaries. Children overhear much more than most adults think. Medical information, especially when it is not accompanied by an explanation, can be very frightening. Unless the child is being included in the conversation, do not talk about your child's care in his presence. Respect your child's privacy and ask hospital staff to do the same. Knock before entering the room and be sensitive to who is present when exams are being conducted.
- Reassure him that the hospitalization is not a punishment. Avoid using "good" or "bad" labels, particularly during procedures. For example, instead of saying, "You were such a good boy, the doctor only had to do this once," say, "You did such a good job of sitting still, I know that was hard for you."
- When possible, let your child make choices. For example, do not say, "Would you like to come into the treatment room now so the doctor can look at you?" Rather, say, "Do you want to bring your blanket with you into the doctor's room?"
- Encourage peer interactions in the hospital. Bring your children to the hospital playroom and help them stay in touch with friends from home, school, and church. Try to get homework assignments so your child can keep up with his classmates.
- Get and give support. Watching your child endure painful tests and procedures can take its toll on your nerves and your mental health. Get support from family and friends, particularly parents who have been through similar experiences, and enlist the help of hospital staff whenever possible.
American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/
Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca/
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Jennings S. Franklin Goes to the Hospital. New York, NY: Scholastic Trade; 2000.
Preparing your child for surgery. KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgery/hosp%5Fsurgery.html. Accessed January 21, 2011.
Rogers F. Going to the Hospital. New York, NY: Paper Star; 1997.
Serious play. Johns Hopkins Magazine website. Available at: http://www.jhu.edu/~jhumag/1199web/play.html.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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