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Preparing for Your School-Age Child’s Surgery

What to Expect

Your school age child may have concerns about the following:

  • Anesthesia. He may worry either that he will wake up during surgery or that he may not wake up after surgery
  • Being away from school and peers
  • Body image and how surgery will affect his appearance
  • What others will think of him
  • Being in pain after surgery

Helping Your School Age Child

  • Wait until a week or two before to talk to your child about his surgery. This will allow him time to process the information and to develop and ask questions without allowing too much time for fears to develop.
  • Be honest and realistic when describing what your child is going to experience. Ask your child questions to make sure he understands. Listen for any misconceptions or fears he may have.
  • Talk with your child about any fears or concerns he may have.
    • If anesthesia is a concern, help him understand that there are doctors (anesthesiologists) whose job it is to make sure they do not feel anything during surgery and help them 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 they have coped with pain in the past. Develop a plan for coping, such as
      • Deep breathing
      • Squeezing an object (or parent’s hand)
      • Using his imagination to take his mind somewhere better
      • Listening to music
      • Staying distracted with a favorite TV show or video game.
  • Encourage opportunities for your child to express how he is feeling. You can do this by asking open-ended questions like, “What are you wondering about your surgery” or “What do you think will be difficult about having surgery?”
  • Encourage your child to talk with friends about his upcoming surgery.
  • Allow your child to pack a bag of activities and comfort items, such as music, movies or games as well as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
  • Talk with your child’s teachers to develop a plan for making up missed assignments.
  • Focus on the positive. Encourage your child to recognize and focus on the long term benefit of his 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.

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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