There is no question that pediatric surgery can be an overwhelming experience for parents and families to cope with. Oftentimes, parents are just as nervous, if not more nervous, than the child themselves.
While coping with anxiety, intense emotions, and stress leading up to the surgery date is completely valid and normal, preparing yourself and your child for surgery will help the stress become more manageable.
8 Tips For Seamless Pediatric Surgery Preparation
The more that you prepare for the details of your child’s surgery, the more confident and calm your entire family will feel. 8 simple ways to best prepare yourself and family for an impending surgery include:
#1: Don’t Keep Your Child in The Dark
As a parent, it is only natural to want to protect your child from the scarier parts of life. While putting off the conversation surrounding an upcoming surgery might be tempting, the unknown can actually increase a child’s anxiety more in the long-run. Since children have vivid imaginations, it is easy for them to picture a surgery as a much scarier event than it really is.
Sitting down with your child and calmly explaining the reason behind their upcoming surgery and hospital stay offers them the opportunity to ask questions, share their fears, and receive the proper reassurance and guidance that everything will be okay.
#2: Work With a Child Life Specialist
Child life specialists are a wonderful resource to capitalize on in a hospital setting. As trained pediatric professionals, child life specialists have the expertise to help children and families better cope with a medical setting. In general, child life specialists can help with many facets of the surgery experience, including:
- Explaining your child’s surgery in an age-appropriate manner that avoids any scary words or images
- Providing emotional support to your child and family
- Offering pointers for how you can approach your child about their upcoming surgery
#3: Prioritize Your Personal Needs As Much As Your Child’s Needs
At the end of the day, the better your mental and physical wellbeing is taken care of as a parent, the better equipped you will be to take care of your children’s needs and concerns. If all of the tasks on your plate feel like too much to handle, leaning on friends and family for support is an excellent tool.
While it is in a parent’s nature to put a child’s needs above all else, remember that your own needs are essential as well.
#4: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
When it comes to your child’s upcoming surgery, knowledge is power. Discussing any and all questions or concerns with your child’s surgeons and anesthesiologists prior to the procedure will ease your mind and keep you from jumping to any unnecessary conclusions. Not only this, but it will better equip you with answers that you can relay to your child if they have similar questions.
Every surgery offers a different set of parameters of the hospital stay time, length of the procedure, and preoperative and postoperative instructions. Helpful questions to ask your child’s doctors include topics related to:
- How many nights or hours the child can expect to stay in the hospital
- The type of anesthesia method that will be used
- What the recovery and pain-management process should look like after surgery
- Instructions that the child should follow in the days or hours leading up to a successful surgery
- What exactly the surgery will resolve and how it will benefit your child’s health outcomes
#5: Familiarize Your Child with Medical and Hospital Settings
A hospital setting doesn’t have to be an unknown and intimidating place. Familiarizing your children with what happens at a hospital, what to expect, and how certain medical equipment works will show children that there is nothing to be afraid of in a medical setting.
Easy ways to bring greater awareness of medical and hospital-related topics include:
- Playing with medical-themed toys such as fake stethoscopes and bandages
- Reading children’s books that take place at a hospital or involve a child getting surgery
- Taking your child on a facility tour of the hospital their surgery will take place in. This familiarizes the both of you with the ins and outs of the hospital environment.
#6: Always Bring a Piece of Home to the Hospital
No matter the child’s age, it can feel overwhelming to navigate the newness of the medical tools and equipment that accompany a hospital environment. Bringing a small, coveted memento to comfort your child is a surefire way to make a hospital room look, feel, and even smell a little more like home.
Easy items to bring that elicit familiarity and comfort include blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and toys.
#7: Follow All Preoperative Instructions the Day Before The Surgery
To prepare your child to have the most successful surgery outcome possible, it is crucial to pay close attention to all of the preoperative instructions that your child’s doctor requires. This ensures that your child is taken care of both physically and emotionally.
#8: Show Confidence in Your Child’s Doctors and Surgery
Let’s face it: kids are incredibly smart at all ages, and can easily pick up on nonverbal cues, body language, and the emotional states of those around them. Because of this, it is important as a parent to carry yourself in a confident and calm manner when discussing their surgical procedure. Assuring them that you are very confident in the abilities of their doctors, nurses, and medical staff will ensure that they feel secure as well.
Work With the Best Pediatric Surgeons in Austin Today
All in all, implementing these simple tactics will make your child’s surgery a more relaxing experience for the entire family. With over 20 years of experience as a pediatric surgery center, our capable team of medical professionals at Austin Pediatric Surgery are committed to creating as comfortable of a surgical experience as possible for both patients and their families.