Helping a Child Cope with Surgery

Any of us would gladly go through anything to spare our child pain. As parents, grandparents, or caregivers, we spend countless hours and endless energy trying to protect the little ones in our care. Sometimes, though, a child needs to go through a surgery to maintain his or her health. While these are hard times for the whole family, there are things that the adults in the child’s life can do to make it easier.

Little boy playing with his toy in bed in hospital room. Child with IV tube and pulse oximeter in modern clinic. Kid recovering from sickness. Post operative care at children station. Kids health care

Just as with adults, the surgeries that children undergo run the gamut from routine operations to long series of serious surgery. For long-term stays or children who need to return often to the hospital for multiple surgeries, caregivers should consider charities like the Ronald McDonald House hat provide a place to stay near the hospital. Nothing is of more comfort to a child going through a scary illness than to know that her parents are nearby.

For children going through a minor surgery, there are many ways that you, as a parent, can make the whole thing seem routine. If you have a young child, you can use their favorite doll or stuffed toy to help them feel like they aren’t going through this alone. Many parents have provided a miniature hospital gown for the favorite doll. This helps the child to visualize what’s happening because she can see her doll experiencing it, too. Some hospitals allow young patients to keep a favorite toy or comfort blanket with them while going under anesthesia, so it feels more like falling asleep. There are many children’s books available to help a child through a hospital stay. An old favorite, Madeline, tells the story of a little girl who had to be rushed to the hospital for an appendectomy. Afterwards, her friends are all jealous of the presents she received! These kinds of books help the idea of a hospital and doctors feel familiar and safe, rather than strange and frightening.

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When considering when and how to tell your child he needs surgery, keep in mind his age and personality. Some children need a lot of time to process things and don’t like big news being sprung on them last minute. Older children will want to know that you respect their feelings and may need lots of time to talk through the upcoming surgery. Toddlers will probably just need minimal information, such as “mommy and daddy will come with you to the hospital and we’ll stay there a few days. You’ll feel a little ouchy, but you’ll wear a long blue shirt and there will be popsicles!”

Keeping supplied for your child’s recovery is also extremely important. Though you’re probably just thinking about getting through the surgery, the recovery can be even more challenging. Make sure you’re well stocked with any infection control products, braces, diagnostic equipment, or other medical supplies you may need to care for your child’s specific needs. Though it’s hard to see a child go through something hard, you can take comfort that you are their biggest support through a hard time.

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