Children’s and Young People’s Scoliosis Services
Produced with SAUK.org.uk
Having a child who is undergoing surgery can be one of the most stressful and worrying times a parent can go through.
One Mum said that consenting to surgery is like sending your child out in a car you know is going to crash.
That brings home the enormity of what parents go through currently. However, we find that children and young people are generally very resilient and if both you and your child are prepared, this can help to significantly reduce anxiety and distress.
Understandably, many parents are unsure about the best way to prepare their child, so we have put together some guidelines which may help.
First, it may sometimes feel like you can do no right. Everyone deals with situations differently but occasionally children and teenagers will refuse to talk about what is happening or may show extreme emotions.
The care and support of those close to your child is absolutely vital at this time, so even if it doesn’t always feel like it, you are doing better than you know.
It is a good idea to try to have some positive family time before surgery so you can focus on something else, such as a holiday or trip out if possible. It is also important to remember that siblings need your attention at this time too. They may be worried about their brother or sister and may be jealous of all the attention they are getting from you.
If they want to, involve them when possible in the preparations, and give them the same information you give to your child having surgery so they are fully informed.
Explaining the process
It may be tempting not to talk to your child very much about their visit to the hospital in case you worry them. However, children of all ages generally cope better if they understand what is going to happen and why it’s necessary.
The key is to provide information at your child’s level of understanding. Helping your child to understand why surgery is needed, and to become familiar with the hospital and what will happen there will greatly reduce fear and distress when the time comes.
So that you’re able to explain the process to your child it helps to make sure that you understand it yourself and have had your own questions answered.
During appointments there is a lot of information to process, so it can be difficult to remember the questions you wanted to ask and to recall everything afterwards.
When speaking with the surgeon, it’s a good idea to write down your questions before you go, and to take notes. It is natural that you will be anxious but children very easily pick up and reflect their parents’ feelings. Familiarising yourself with the process will help you explain it calmly to your child.
Anaesthetic is often one of the major causes of anxiety. For young children a simple, carefully worded explanation can work well.
One option might be to tell them that they will get special medicine during the operation so they stay asleep, but that the medicine will be turned off when the operation has finished, and that they will wake up about 5 minutes later.
It may be wise to avoid phrases such as ‘being put to sleep’ or ‘knocked out’ as these carry other meanings that may frighten a child. However, the most important thing is to know how your child likes to communicate, and what phrases may be reassuring for them.
Generally, simple, honest, and reassuring explanations about the things that will happen at the hospital and the people they will meet will be of benefit to your child.
It helps to encourage your child to talk about the operation and ask questions. For younger children, telling stories and using activities and games may help to prepare them.
Encouraging your child to join in with some of the preparations, such as letting them help pack their hospital bag, can help to reassure and involve them.
Teenagers may require a more detailed explanation of what will happen. It is important for them to feel in control of their health and body so they should be included in discussions about the surgery and given the opportunity to ask questions of their surgeon.
Your child might want to choose whether they would prefer information to come from you or the surgeon, how much information they require, and how far before the surgery they would like to talk.
This can be a lonely and confusing time for teenagers; sometimes the worry about their operation is accompanied by concerns about their appearance, or by feelings that they are different from their peers, or that no-one understands what they are going through.
Teenagers may also be worried about missing school when exams are imminent, so it is important to liaise with school to make sure they can provide some work to do at home and that they will help your child to catch up when they return to school. The hospital teaching staff will also help with this.
Your teenager will usually be fully aware of your own feelings, no matter how hard you try to hide them. They may be more worried about you than themselves. It is best to be open with them, whilst emphasising the positive outcomes of surgery.
The best timing for a discussion varies, depending on the age and maturity of the child. Whilst teenagers will often be involved in discussions and decisions for weeks in advance, the timescale might differ for younger children.
As a guideline, a week before the surgery itself is an appropriate amount of time for most children, and for children under 4, about 2 to 4 days before hospital and again on the day.
If your child or teenager is unable to talk about the operation or their behaviour is difficult to manage, a lot of patience may be needed.
Using gentle encouragement with your child can help them to open up about their questions and fears. This approach can prevent your child from feeling pushed and will show that you are willing to listen when they are ready to talk.
For teenagers, printing out information and letting them know where they can find it will allow them to find out more in their own time, even if they aren’t ready to ask. It might also help to avoid them surfing the Internet and being frightened by some of the vast amount of inaccurate or exaggerated information out there.
On the day, encouraging your teenager to take items to hospital that will provide a distraction such as books, headphones, phones and tablets will help reduce the stress of surgery and avoid a sense of isolation.
Ward 22Telephone: 01642 854522 (24 hours)
PCCUTelephone: 01642 854667 (24 hours)
Mr Zak Choudhury’s secretaryTelephone: 01642 835564
Mr Prasad Karpe’s secretaryTelephone: 01642 835811
Ms Toni Isaacson’s secretary
Cheryl Honeyman, Nurse SpecialistMobile number: 0793 536 1881Email: [email protected]
General EnquiriesEmail: [email protected]
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.