Surgery can be such an overwhelming experience that can often seem pretty scary. When it involves a child it becomes even worse; not only is the child worried, but so is the parent. But fear not, we have come up with a bunch of tips to try to make the whole process easier.
The tips range from pre-surgery and suggestions which can make your life a little less stressful. And, if those tips are not enough, then take a look at the cars that some lucky kids get to drive into surgery. They are unbelievably cool, inventive and different.
You’ve definitely got to see the pictures below; you’ll instantly see what a difference they make. Plus they look awesome.
Time to prepare can make the whole procedure easier.
Unlike for any sort of emergency procedure, if your child is having elective surgery, then you have time to prepare your child in advance.
This will allow you to make them feel calmer and safer, making the whole process less traumatic.
Talking to your child will help them understand.
One of the best things that you can do to help your child is to talk to them about what is going to happen.
But make sure that you speak to them in a way they can actually understand.
Be careful of the language that you use. Don’t use language that could increase their fear.
Surgery can often seem like a very scary event, so it is best not to use words that can make it seem more frightening.
Saying something like ‘you will be put to sleep’ and then clarify they’ll be woken up again after the surgery.
Rational explanations really help.
Talk through the whole procedure, start to finish. Everything needs to be said as clearly as possible, with explanations about why it is happening too. Explaining the reason why it all needs to happen can often help to make it seem less daunting.
Tell your child about each stage as thoroughly as you can. The fewer surprises they face, the less fearful they will be about the whole process.
Honesty is the best policy.
Children usually feel nervous about what is going to happen, because they worry that they aren’t being told the whole truth. They often believe their health is worse than they have been told, even if they don’t say so out loud.
Make sure that you are as honest as possible with them, and don’t mislead them. It is very important to build trust.
Answering questions is a great way to help a child relax.
Encourage them to ask questions and treat them all seriously. Something that might seem silly to an adult could be weighing down on the child more than you can see.
If you don’t know the answer, then see if you can get a doctor to come in and explain instead. They will usually be willing to do so, it can really help to put your child’s mind at ease.
Teenagers need honest responses.
Teenagers come with a different set of worries to young children.
Rather than fearing separation from their parents, they worry about what could go wrong like whether or not they will wake up when they should, and if it will hurt.
Honesty is key in making sure they trust and believe you.
Even a small concern can cause a lot of anxiety.
Teenagers might also have worries about people seeing them in the hospital gown, being humiliated somehow, missing out on events, or seeming childish if they are scared.
Try to anticipate these different fears so that you can assuage them.
Help a teenager to understand what is happening and why.
It is important to treat all the teenager’s worries seriously too, even if they seem silly. Surgery is a stressful event and these worries are usually fairly simply improved.
If the teenager can understand why it is all happening, as well as what the process is, it can help them to make sense of it all and to make their worries seem less all-consuming.
Being put to sleep can be an overwhelming concept.
Most children fear that surgery will hurt, but also fear the process of going to sleep. They worry that they will feel the pain anyway, that they will wake up during the surgery, or that they won’t wake up afterwards.
It can be useful to call in an anesthesiologist to explain it all. Having a professional tell them they won’t feel anything until they are woken at the end, can make them feel much better about the whole thing.
It didn’t used to be like this.
In the past, a child having surgery could be a very traumatic event. Children would be taken away from their parents away for hours, and the parents might not be sure about what was going on.
Nowadays, doctors and nursing staff are far more supportive. In fact, there are usually a lot of members of specialist support staff who are on hand to help with any doubts or issues you, or, your child might have.
Operations are not a punishment for bad behavior.
Sometimes children believe that the operation is a punishment. This idea needs to be changed. They need to understand that they didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this.
It can help to make them see that the operation is a way of fixing the issue. It is not creating a new problem but is a way of making them better again.
If you seem nervous, your child will notice.
Sending your child into surgery can be overwhelming. It’s natural to be worried, but children can tell when their parents are nervous. It’s not just what you say, but the way you are speaking and how you are acting.
It is really important that you try to be relaxed about it so that the child can see that they don’t need to worry either.
We’ve got some tips to keep the child more relaxed, but first, let’s take a look at what adults can do to be less nervous.
It will be like you never left.
Although you won’t be allowed in the actual operating theatre, you can usually be with them until they are asleep, and before they wake up. The children will not know that you’ve gone.
It makes it much easier knowing that you can be with them at any point when they might be scared. For the rest of the time, they will be asleep and unaware of what is happening.
Learn all about the surgery.
It might sound obvious, but it is really useful if you can learn about the surgery first. The more you read about it, the better equipped you will be to deal with your child’s questions and doubts.
It will also make you feel a little more control if you can understand what it is that your doctor is talking about.
Try to visit the hospital before the surgery.
Try to book a trip to the hospital a few days ahead of the surgery – most hospitals offer this opportunity.
This will give both, you and your child the chance to be more familiar with the environment that you’ll be in. It will seem far less overwhelming if you already know where to go and what it will be like.
Leave enough time so that you’re not rushing.
Again, this sounds obvious, but make sure that you leave plenty of time on the day that you are going into hospital. You don’t want to be rushing at any point or to add any unnecessary stress.
Keep it all nice and calm, and make sure that you have got everything you need in advance. That way you can keep the surgery day chilled from the start.
Make the most of what the hospital has on offer.
When packing for the hospital trip, make sure to pack a few toys, games and teddies. This will all help to make the child feel more comfortable.
Hospitals often have play areas and toys that a child can play with. Let your child enjoy these moments. Wait until you hear about the cars that some hospitals have available.
Playing doctors can make the surgery more relatable.
It can be hard for a young child to understand what is going to happen to them but there are ways of making it easier.
A child’s doctor’s kit that they can use on teddies or dolls can help them to understand the procedure. It can also help to normalize it for them so that it doesn’t seem as scary.
Pain is normal and it’s temporary.
It is normal to feel some pain or discomfort after surgery. It is important that the child hears that this is normal, and does not mean that they are broken.
Equally, if they are feeling pain then encourage them to tell you. There is often some medicine that they can take to help them with the pain.
Never underestimate the power of distraction.
It is easy to be scared or in pain if there are no distractions. The thoughts can be overwhelming. But toys, games, and friends can really help a child to be less scared.
Out of sight, out of mind, really helps a child to be more relaxed about the whole procedure. And one hospital has a very unique way of distracting the children.
This nurse had an amazing idea.
One pre-op nurse, Kimberly Martinez, has come up with a very unique way of helping put children at ease on their way to surgery.
She has found that the best way is to let young children drive themselves into surgery.
Mini cars are helping kids in California.
It might sound crazy, but the Doctors Medical Center, in Modesto, California, has two small cars that are specifically designed for young children.
The first was purchased by the center, but the second was donated by an employee and her family.
Driving a mini car will always be fun.
Driving the cars is such a positive experience for the children, it completely relaxes them on their way into surgery.
Instead of worrying, becoming anxious, and getting worked up, they get to enjoy their way in and feel like they are doing something a bit more fun.
Seeing your child have fun can make the process less scary.
It really helps the parents too. The difference between seeing a child going into surgery scared or having fun is huge.
This can make a really big difference for how both the child and the parent feel about the surgery. It can make the parent feel a lot less anxious about the whole process, and the child can sense that.
The cars are seriously cool.
These cars aren’t just any cars. One of them is a black Mercedes, and the other is a pink Volkswagen Beetles. They are specifically made for 2-7 year olds, so they are easy enough for them to use too.
Most adults would enjoy riding them into surgery, or just out on the streets.
The kids can cruise to their own music.
The cars teach safety first, they both have seatbelts, working headlights, reverse lights and dash lights.
The kids can even listen to music on the way into surgery, using either pre-loaded music or the in-built MP3 player.
The cars really help to distract from the fear.
Communications Manager for Northern California Group of Tenet Healthcare, Krista Deans, told the website Scary Mommy:
“When the children find out they can go into the operating room riding in a cool little car, they light up and in most cases, their fears melt away.”
Relaxed parents = relaxed kids.
She also added: “When parents see their children put at ease, it puts them at ease as well. It can be traumatizing for a young patient to be peeled away from their parents as they head into surgery.
“This truly helps everyone involved.”
It certainly sounds like a policy that other hospitals should be taking up too.
These mini cars are a positive idea for the future.
Surgery is an overwhelming event for anyone especially for children and their parents. But these cars are a great way to make it all feel less overwhelming.
If your hospital doesn’t have any mini cars for children available, then hopefully following the tips we suggested will at least help to make it all a bit less stressful.
If you like the sound of this children’s car, then maybe you could take a look at donating one to your local pediatric hospital too. It might make all the difference they need.