It’s natural to feel very nervous before your child’s surgery. Doctors are required to fill you in on worst-case scenarios and in the face of that, it can be difficult to keep a brave face on. Try to divert your own nerves by focusing on soothing your child’s fears and preparing her for surgery.
While children should be sheltered from some of the harsher realities of the medical world, there’s no need to completely sugarcoat everything. Instead of telling your child tall tales about how surgery works, be straightforward and honest. You know your child best. If she has a high level of anxiety, explain only the bare minimum. If your child is very inquisitive and difficult to ruffle, feel free to get more detailed about the surgery and how the doctor will perform it. Answer your child's questions as best you can. If you don't know the answer, tell her you don't know and that you'll ask the doctors or nurses together.
Don’t say it won’t hurt
Maintain your child’s trust by being honest about what might be uncomfortable or painful about surgery. In most cases, kids will only feel discomfort when having an IV put in and potentially during recovery. Let your child know that the needle prick is fast and that an IV doesn’t hurt once it’s in. Explain to your child that the doctors and nurses are there to make everything as painless as possible. Be clear that your child will feel nothing while under anesthesia. In an age-appropriate way, talk about methods of pain management that will be used after surgery. Explain that waking up might involve feeling confused or dizzy for a little while.
Be positive about the hospital
Ask your child’s hospital about the opportunity to come in for a tour before surgery. Most children’s facilities have outreach materials to help prepare kids. If a tour isn’t available, go to the hospital’s website to read about the hospital together. Look at pictures and talk about fun aspects of the hospital, like free food and getting to wear pajamas all day. Instead of talking about the hospital as a place for sick people, describe it as a place where people get better. Let your child know that the doctors and nurses have trained to work with children and that they’ve performed this surgery on hundreds of children before. On the day of your child’s surgery, let her bring a special item from home to distract her during registration and pre-op.