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No matter the surgery, preparing for an approaching surgery can be stressful and frightening for you and especially your child. Although, as a parent, you want to put your child's mind at ease it sometimes can be difficult to know what and how much to say. With some age-appropriate teaching, reassurances, and support that fear and stress can evaporate. Here are some tips on what you can do:

1. Gather important information about the surgery.

At home before the surgery, there will be some prep. Know what the requirements are for fasting, medications, and the like. Know what time you will need to arrive and where you will check-in. Allow enough time for traffic and/or weather in your drive.

In the hospital before the surgery, the nurse will take some vitals and ask some questions pertaining to the prep. You will stay with your child until just before your child is taken back into the operating room.

During the surgery you will be in the pre-designated waiting area. A nurse will give you updates as necessary and let you know when you can go back to sit with your child.

Find out how long your child's stay will be and what to expect in terms of recovery.

2. Encourage questions, but don't be afraid of "I don't know."

Your child will have questions. He may be hesitant to ask them for a number of reasons. Explain what the surgery is for and how it will help him afterwards. Let him know that he can ask anything that he's curious, nervous, or worried about. If you don't know, tell him that. Then find the answer.

3. Research, research, research.

Learn all you can about the procedure. Ask the surgeon for recommended reading. Some children's books have even been written about the surgery process, in some cases about your child's specific surgery.

4. Be aware of your word choices.

Don't talk down to your child or skirt the facts of the procedure. If you say, "It's no big deal," or something similar you could be glossing over the fears she feels about the surgery. Use words she will understand, without using euphemisms or cutesy terms. Take the time to explain what will happen, in words she will understand.

5. Use props.

A younger child can often understand the procedure better if you can show them where on his body the surgeon will operate. Use a stuffed animal or doll to point to the area and talk about what will happen.

6. Let your child know that you will be there during her surgery.

Explain that you will be nearby, in the hospital, the entire time and that when she wakes up you will be next to her bed. Knowing of your presence nearby will help your child relax, making the build up to the time of surgery much more pleasant for the entire family.

7. Bring a comforting item from home.

Let your child choose an item from home that will make the experience more comfortable, such as a toy bear or a pillow. This will help not only to make her feel more at ease, but will give her a greater sense of control over something.

You have little to no control over most of this event in your child's life; it is in the hands of capable medical professionals. This lack of control is stressful and can be frightening. However, instead of focusing on what's out of your control, focus on what you do control: how well your child is prepared. With some time, research, and patience you can make this a stress-free and fear-free experience for your child and yourself.

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