If your child needs to have an operation, firstly, prepare yourself.
Find out as much as you can about the operation your child’s going to have, and what will happen.
Do some internet research, and ask the doctor questions.
If you’re scared of hospitals plan how you’ll make sure that doesn’t rub off on your child.
Plan ahead how you’ll explain things to your child. And what language you’ll use. Don’t talk about needles, pain, cutting open or things that might scare them. Talk about the magic cream that will make their hand go numb. The doctor fixing them and making them better.And the magic sleep –so that when they wake up – they’ll be all fixed..

Secondly – help your child picture exactly what’s going to happen.
Watch YouTube videos. And read books about children going to hospital and leaflets for children explaining their specific operation.
Talk through who they’ll meet, what it will be like, what the routine will be, and what will happen when they go for their operation.
If they need to stay overnight, tell them you’ll be sleeping next to them. And when family and friends can visit. Talk about not eating or drinking before the operation. And for a little while after it.
Tell them about the nurses taking their temperature in their ear and about the blood pressure cuff that blows up on their arm.
Be really honest with them. Tell them it may be a bit sore afterwards. And that they’ll have medicine to help stop them feeling sore.
Go for a visit to the hospital and the ward if possible, so they can picture themselves there.
Younger children may enjoy playing doctors and nurses and giving a doll or teddy an operation.
Once you’ve talked through what will happen, ask lots of questions to check your child has understood, and you can correct them if you need to.
Children often feel guilty, so make sure they understand that needing an operation isn’t their fault.
And ask if they’re worried about anything, so you can put their mind at rest.

Finally, treat it as an adventure. Get your child to help you plan what to take. Make sure you pack their favourite soft toy or blanket. Plan to bring food and drinks they’ll like. Pack books, comics and toys, and plan what games you can play if they’re in bed. Tell them about the playroom, and the TV and video games. And the lovely hospital staff, and the other children they’ll meet. So they look forward to their stay in the hospital.

So the three tips are:

  1. Make sure you’re well prepared.
  2. Help your child picture exactly what’s going to happen.
  3. And treat it as an adventure.

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child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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