Pre-flight instructions always include the sentence, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping your child.” It may sound uncaring, but it is crucial, because if you aren’t okay, you can’t help your child when they need it. That concept applies when preparing your child for foot surgery, too. He or she will react much better to the experience if you are informed, calm, and prepared yourself. They will also do better if they know what’s happening and why, and can talk freely about what to expect.
The first step is to educate yourself about the details: anesthesia, pain medication, where you will be during the surgery, etc. Explain to younger kids about the appearance of doctors and nurses (caps, gowns, masks), and that they will be asleep and not wake up until it is done. Talk about how they will feel afterward, what kind of bandages or dressings they will have, and how long before they can walk on the foot.
Since surgery means not eating or drinking, you will need to find other ways to comfort and reassure very young children as they wait for the procedure. Preschoolers fear separation from parents, pain, and the idea of hurting their bodies. Prepare for tears and fussiness before and after surgery. Having their familiar objects and storybooks around may help, but they will want your reassurance that you will be with them beforehand and waiting for them after they wake up.
Older children may want more details—if it will hurt, where you will be, and when they will see their friends (encourage such visits once they are ready for them). Adolescents and teens may fear the threat of death or disfigurement, or that they will be “different” from their peers afterwards. They may want to talk with the surgeon themselves and be included in decisions. To handle their fears and stresses, let them bring music, books, or other personal items to help distract them.
Most of all, prepare yourself to remain calm, both in what you say and in your body language, so you can be a reassuring presence for your child. Podiatry Associates, P.C. will give you a list of specific pre-surgery instructions, but be sure to call us with any other questions by dialing (303) 805-5156. We will do all we can to make sure this experience is not traumatic for your child in any way.