These are a few of the questions asked by children facing surgery: Will it hurt? Can my mom and dad be with me? When will I wake up?
With good information, you can answer many of your child’s questions. What to tell a child about a surgery depends on age, emotional maturity, and coping abilities.
How do I talk to my child about surgery?
- Be honest. If your child asks a question to which you can’t respond, say that you don’t know but will try to find the answer.
- Use familiar words. Use words that your child understands and that are non-threatening. For example, use sore instead of pain. When describing an anesthesiologist, you might say “sleep doctor.” Say “small opening” instead of “cut.”
- Talk about how the surgery will help your child.
- Let your child know that you will be at the hospital during the operation and that you will take him or her home afterwards.
If my child asks…
- Will it hurt? You might say, “It won’t hurt during the operation because the sleeping medicine protects you. But afterwards the place where you had your operation may feel sore. The doctor or nurse can give you medicine to help the soreness go away.”
- Who will do the operation? You might say, “Doctors and nurses will do the operation. They will take good care of you and keep you safe the whole time. You will meet your nurse and sleep doctor before the operation.”
- Why can’t I eat or drink before my operation? You might say, “The sleeping medicine works best when there is no food in your tummy. After the operation you can eat when you feel hungry.”
How else can I help my child cope?
- Bring a favorite toy, book, security blanket, or other treasured item to the hospital. Older children may want to bring books or handheld games.
- Let your child make choices before and after surgery, when appropriate. For example, ask your child to pick which clothes to pack for the hospital or which favorite item or toy to bring.
- Encourage your child to draw pictures as a way to express his or her thoughts and feelings about the surgery.
Pre-Surgery Tours at EIRMC
At EIRMC, we want to help our young patients and their families feel comfortable before surgery. That’s why we offer pre-surgery tours at EIRMC. The goal of these tours is to help familiarize a child/teen to the environment and medical equipment, ease a child’s anxieties, and to clear up misconceptions that a child may have about surgery.
During the tour, our Child Life Specialist will use developmentally appropriate education and therapeutic play, in order for the patient to understand and participate during their care.
Tours are free of charge, but we do require a reservation. If you are interested in scheduling a presurgery tour, please call EIRMC’s Child Life Specialist at (208) 529-7288.