Nearly everyone will have some form of health problem during their childhood. Certain hand or wrist issues can bring about the need for a surgical appointment, and this can lead to apprehension and nervousness for both children and parents alike.
So how, as a parent, do you prepare yourself and your child for an upcoming paediatric surgery? The priority is to reassure your child through an undoubtedly stressful time in their young lives, but further, you as a parent have to maintain that level of support while staying strong yourself.
No matter their age, children cope better when they have an understanding of what’s going to happen and the necessities of it. Your surgeon will no doubt do their part to dispel any major worries, but you may receive this information on a surgeon-to-parent level. Encourage your child’s questions about the problems in their hand or wrist, and the upcoming time they will be spending in the hospital, so that other fears and anxieties can be expressed. Take all questions seriously and answer them to the best of your ability. If you don’t know an answer, tell your child that you’ll find it out, and explain that the doctors and nurses are happy to answer questions, too.
It is key that information is provided on a level at which your child can understand, so give them the time to ask any and all questions that they have and do your best to answer in the way you know best. Help your child to gain an understanding of why the surgery is needed for them. Use simple, constructive language that encourages the child to ask questions. It is worth considering when this conversation is going to take place. Generally, you should look to have this conversation a few days before the operation and once again on the morning of. Try to explain the reason for your child’s surgery as simply as possible.
Hand or wrist surgery are mostly elective procedures, meaning that they are not undertaken due to an emergency; rather, there will be a date scheduled in advance and this gives you time to communicate with your child and ease their nerves. There are some procedures that are more painful (for example if bone graft has been taken from the bone above the hip). In these occasions your child may need to stay overnight for pain control. This will be discussed with you while planning for surgery. In preparation for an overnight stay, request to visit the ward prior to the surgery. It may help your child take in the surroundings and give them a better sense of what to expect.
The main fear children have is that the operation will hurt. In this instance, it may be worth explaining the role of an anaesthesiologist. Reassurance can be found in the news that there will be a special medicine that sends you to sleep. Language is critical. Avoid scary terms and instead focus on the process itself. Alongside the talk about anaesthesia, confirm that you’ll be right there when the anaesthesia wears off. A Children’s Hospital in Cleveland created a really thoughtful, worthwhile Surgery Booklet for children to work through. Perhaps making something similar would be an engaging way to help children understand the need for their operation?
If you are having your procedure under local anaesthetic, you will most likely be asked to arrive at the practice around mid day, and for hand and wrist procedures it is incredibly rare that you will need to fast. While you wait for the surgery in the minor procedure room, your child will be assessed by the nurse and directed to wait in the waiting room outside the operating theatre. This is another opportunity to ask any final questions, and nurses are trained to help ease children’s worries.
Most hand and wrist procedures are carried out as a day cases, this means that regardless of the type of the anaesthetic they will receive, they will be able to return home when they feel well in themselves. This can be a point of comfort for children, who may be upset at the thought of spending the night in the hospital. Those who do have to stay over, are generally more than welcome to bring toys as items of comfort.
Encourage older children to join in the learning process with you, reading and digesting information is a well recognised mechanism of coping and doing it together can help ease any nerves or worries. For most, it is all about anticipating what fears and worries they may have and doing your best to ease them as a parent does.
If you have any direct worries about an upcoming procedure you are more than welcome to make contact here, and we will endeavour to help you with your queries.