How to talk with your 3 yr old about surgery? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 10-23-2013, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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To any other moms that may have had this experience I am wondering how to talk to your kid about having a surgery. My son needs to have a "minor surgery" and I figure I will say it a few days ahead and make it pretty matter of fact and not over dramatize it. Looking for words and wondering if your kids had questions about their bodies....as in what is wrong with me kind of questions and how you handled it?

 

Thanks so much,

Carlotta

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#2 of 8 Old 11-10-2013, 08:34 AM
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That's a tough one, @lotta_earth . I wish you had gotten some input to help. How did it go?


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#3 of 8 Old 11-10-2013, 10:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Cynthia, no I haven't gotten any feedback from other moms. The surgery is this week but there is a chance we postpone it due to his cold. I have told him about it once but not in much detail. I figure I will just be matter of fact about it and that sometimes we need to get some help. It's the part of going in and getting the injection to put him under to explain that I find difficult and then of course the two weeks afterwards taking pain meds and that it will get better.

 

Thanks for asking

 

Carlotta

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#4 of 8 Old 11-10-2013, 01:50 PM
 
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I can offer some thoughts, but it seems that the hospital you are using doesn't follow standard US protocols used in children's hospitals. For example, children are not given injections in such a way where it has to be explained. They are given a little flavored gas through a mask, and then the IV is placed after they have responded to the gas (usually by falling asleep). They bring in their lovies, like a blanket or stuffed animal, to hold while getting the gas. The nurses are generally of a personality that that is warm, caring.. Yes, children do sometimes get upset, but the protocol is designed to minimize anxiety and trauma.

I also can't think of minor surgeries that require two weeks of pain meds! Healthy children bounce back amazingly fast from surgeries. Much faster than adults. My elder had a tumor removed from her foot and was in a wheelchair for a month, and she was off pain meds within 3 days. I used to do outcomes research in ped surgery, so I know she wasn't unusual.

I think your matter of fact approach is great. Do not go into great detail about anything that could cause anxiety. If your child is indeed getting a straight up needle injection, then I probably would not mention it. You ask the anesthesiologist to use a skin numbing cream and then explain to your wee one that he will feel some cold and then a little pressure. Bring a lovey, favorite books, games, etc. and do lots of hugs and attention in pre-op. Don't let him see you cry (you will likely tear up when you separate. It is natural for many mamas to get some tears). Don't talk about post-op too much... You deal with that when it happens, b/c it is different for every kid. Also, your hospital's protocols will determine what some of that looks like.

If your child's mobility will be limited for days or weeks, you can talk about it some now, but most 3 year olds can't process too much of it. But it is worth starting the conversation now -- how long will be in hospital before going home, what the hospital room will be like, what kind of movies will we watch while resting, etc. You can buy some new puzzles, games... Rent or borrow new or favorite movies. This is not a time to limit screen use smile.gif. Your goal is to keep your little one on a good road to recovery (not tearing at IV or stitches, etc.), so if that involves a bunch of games on an iPad or something, you can worry about weaning him off of it later.

If the surgery isn't minor, you don't have to make a big deal about it, at all, but please don't tell your child it is minor if it isn't. It won't align with his experience and will be confusing. It will cause him to not trust you if he needs a future major procedure and could cause anxiety in that scenario. You just say after the surgery that mama is going to take good care of you. We have special medicine to keep you feeling as good as possible. You will get some treats (whatever that is for you...). We are strong and will be on this journey together. Many hugs and songs...

I think it would be worth calling the hospital in advance to ask about their protocols with children, especially pre and post op. Then you know what to expect and can be an excellent guide to your child. My children have needed several procedures/surgeries, and I used to work in a major children's hospital surgery practice, but I still make that call, and we go through everything again in pre-op with nurse, anesthesiologist, and doc. We are all on the same page and can work together to make things as minimally stressful as possible. For example, if my child needs to be taking in clear liquid by X hours post-op, I make sure that liquid is something my kid can tolerate, is acceptable to the nurses, and a bit of a treat to my little one (say, apple juice, or a Popsicle). I have also done a hospital tour to see the rooms and layout, if we were going to be there for a bit.

I hope this is making sense. My husband and little one are sick, so I have started and stopped this message a zillion times. I can hardly remember what I have written! I know you will do a great job, even if there are times that you are counting the hours until your wee one feels better! I wish him the best possible outcome and a speedy recovery!
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#5 of 8 Old 11-10-2013, 02:00 PM
 
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Ugh, also, after writing a book length post... Find out exactly when you need to stop food and liquids before surgery. This is very important. Follow it, to the letter. But i always wake my children in the night to have that last bit of food, or water, or whatever before we hit our cut off. It is disruptive, but we do it because surgeries can get delayed, for a bunch of reasons. Most practices try to schedule the younger ones earlier in the day, but it all depends on the doc, their case load, emergencies that come up, etc. The newness of the situation will help a child coast through the feelings of hunger and thirst, but if your surgery is then delayed by an hour or two, you will be grateful that you woke your kid up at 2 am for that last drink of water before the cut-off.

Hope that also made some sense smile.gif. If you are going to have a hospital stay, make sure you have access to food, coffee, water, pillow, blanket, comfortable clothing and warm socks for yourself.
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#6 of 8 Old 11-13-2013, 01:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for such great information! It was wonderful to hear from other mama's and I really needed that. Thank you!!! 

He won't have to stay overnight, so at least he can be home feeling secure.  I did find out that he will get a syrup to first make him sleepy then gas to put him under a bit, then an injection for the deeper "sleep" so it won't be as scary as I first imagined with an IV. Though I heard about the exit phase I think it's called when he will go deeper down and have some shakes and twitches that will be hard for me to watch but it's good to know about it beforehand. His surgery is in the early afternoon and his last food is allowed at 7am so I will wake him early so that he can have a good breakfast. I will be sure to bring his lovies and i have some new dvds for him to watch at home. Again thanks so much for responding. I was feeling pretty alone and want to say thanks for taking the time to  answer my questions.

Sincerely,

Carlotta

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#7 of 8 Old 11-13-2013, 05:45 AM
 
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One thing doctors and nurses really not good about telling you upfront - some children have a really unpleasant time coming out from sedation. They won't remember it and it doesn't happen with all children, although it is really common.  They may fight or cry for what seems like forever but as soon as it passes, to them it's like it never happened.  My daughter was sedated for an MRI a few years ago and no one on her medical team told me anything about that.  If a mom friend hadn't warned me (because no one told her and when it happened to her child, she was totally unprepared), I would've thought something had gone very wrong.

 

Best of luck for a speedy recovery! 

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#8 of 8 Old 11-13-2013, 09:01 PM
 
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Might be a little late now, but trying to figure out ahead of time what meds exactly will be used and determining what might cause more severe reactions - for example, some people are incredibly sensitive to nitrous oxide gas (I'm one of them) but doctors are accustomed to using "standard doses" generally based on weight or age.  Now a sensitive individual may not need the standard dose and might react abnormally.  My first encounter with nitrous I was 4, at the dentist, and flailing in the chair trying to "fly" and petting the hygienist's hair.  They lowered the gas flow and I was fine. Fast forward 12 years and I had my wisdom teeth removed.....horrible time coming out of anesthesia, the docs were trying to push me out the door after 20mins off the meds and I still wasn't awake.  I know now that my liver doesn't process chemicals like I should (still awaiting final conformation but most likely positive for MTHFR gene mutation) and because we now use a Naturopath, I already know that my 2yo DD can't take acetaminophen and will likely react similarly to me and that's something we will have to keep in mind for any future things that pop up an might require meds.   Not quite the same, but on the subject of knowing the meds, I had a cat with a hole in his heart who needed to be neutered.  I had to find a vet that used a specific gas that would allow him to wake up instantly upon removal of the gas rather than the slow, often violent wake-up seen with traditional gases.  It was much less stressful on his body and he recovered without a hitch.

 

As far as explaining, I'd keep it short, truthful, and simple.  The more you talk about it, the more chance it has to fester and become a source for anxiety.  Just go in with positive attitude and that energy will carry over to your LO

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