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This one is about: Helping Prepare Your Child for the Trauma of Surgery

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Helping Prepare Your Child for the Trauma of Surgery

The following was sent to Cleft-talk by Kristi -- a young woman whose craniofacial anomaly led her to the OR more than 30 times in her 34 years. She shares her insights on helping our kids deal with the trauma of surgery.


I know people are tired of hearing about all the surgery I've had over the course of my life... but I've had enough of it to learn lots of things over the years. The stuff that affected me, I faced it head on most of the time. Only problem I have now is with hair shaving. There I said it.

I have some suggestions on how parents can work with their kids so that they can get through the trauma of surgery. It even works for us big kids...

1. Help prepare your child when they are young age for surgery. By the time I was 4 or 5 years old, I was asking questions. Questions about bandages, my room, etc. Any child over 3 should have a pre-op tour of the hospital, in my opinion.

2. Involve your child in any discussions with the doctor, especially if the child is old enough to understand. Sometimes there are private meetings between doctors and parents. It happened once with me. They were doing it because they wanted to know how prepare me for the major reconstruction I was about to undergo. But always make time to meet with the doctor and the child after the meeting. Explain everything on the child's level of understanding.

3. Let your child have the ability to express his or her feelings about any surgery, BEFORE AND AFTER. There are lots of emotions and mental preparation that your child, especially older ones will go through. I still go through lots of mental preparation for my surgery.

Let your child express his or her fears about surgery. The only way your child will be able to deal with them is to face them and talk about them.

4. Be there for your child emotionally before and after surgery. Your child needs you. It can be sooo hard when your child lashes out at you. You need to be strong in front of your child...I've never once saw my mom break down. But man I have unloaded on her a few times after surgery. Our ritual before surgery... spend time together in holding (when permitted) and a HUGE HUG before I head off for the OR.

5. Teach your child how to advocate for his or her needs. By the time he or she becomes a teen, they can advocate for things for themselves. Part of that CONTROL thing. :-)

6. Listen to your child by remembering his or her needs. My mom still listens to me after nearly 34 years. I was talking to the anesthesiologist the day of my surgery. We discussed IV placement. My mom spoke up too. Anesthesiologist agreed with us BOTH.

7. Be honest with your child. Surgery is not a pleasant thing to go through or is it a bad thing. I can think of a lot worse things than having surgery. This has been a big help. My parents were always upfront with me. I learned at a young age that no one was gonna ever pull the wool over my eyes and not pay for it. :-) I hate sugarcoat. :-(

8. Help your child maintain a positive attitude before and after surgery. Your attitude really affects the outcome of the surgery... I know because I've been there done that one.

9. Have a sense of humor. This one is hard and will only happen after many OR trips and hospitalizations. My mom and I were laughing and reminiscing in holding (area) and having a good laugh on the phone the next day about how I looked. LOL My family and I would have ended up in the nuthouse years ago if it hadn't been for our sense of humor!! I know people don't care for the humor that I have around my surgeries.. but that's my style. That's my way of coping with it all.

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