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Preparing for Your Adolescent Child’s Surgery

What to Expect

Your teen may have concerns about:

  • Anesthesia. She may worry either that she will wake up during surgery or that she may not wake up after surgery
  • Being away from school and peers
  • Body image and how surgery will affect her appearance
  • What others will think of him
  • Being in pain after surgery
  • Being dependent on others for self-care after surgery
  • Feeling a loss of control over her medical situation 

Helping Your Teen

  • Involve your teen in all aspects of planning for her surgery, including talks with her doctors. Allow her to be an active participant in the decision-making process.
  • Encourage your teen to ask questions and to learn about her surgery.
  • Talk with your teen about any fears or concerns she may have.
    • If anesthesia is a concern, help her understand that there are doctors (anesthesiologists) whose job it is to make sure she does not feel anything during surgery and help her to wake up in as little amount of pain as possible.
    • If change in appearance is a concern, learn from the surgeon what to expect and brainstorm ideas with you child about ways to minimize the appearance of the change.
    • If pain is a concern, encourage your child to think about ways she has coped with pain in the past. Develop a plan for coping, such as:
      • Deep breathing
      • Squeezing an object (or parent’s hand)
      • Using her imagination to take her mind somewhere better       
      • Listening to music
      • Staying distracted with a favorite TV show or video game
  • Encourage opportunities for your teen to express how she is feeling. It is often difficult for teens to be open about their feelings with adults. You can encourage her to write in a journal or talk to her peers about her upcoming surgery.
  • Focus on the positive. Encourage your child to recognize and focus on the long term benefit of her surgery.
  • Keep food and drink out of sight on the day of surgery. Children are not able to eat or drink before surgery. They can often be distracted from their hunger with activities, as long as they do not see any food or drink.
  • Encourage your teen to pack a bag of activities and comfort items, such as music, movies or games as well as a favorite blanket or pillow. 

If you have further questions related specifically to your child’s needs, please contact the pre-op Child Life specialist at 410-955-9652.

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