Hope For The Journey

10 Tips For
Surviving Your Kid's
Surgery

Waiting while your young child is wheeled back into surgery is a nail-biting, soul-crunching experience. Most parents don’t get it. Most kids float through childhood without even a hint of needing surgery. And if you tell a parent of one of those kids—the uber-healthy ones–that your child needs surgery, watch out. You’ll be sure to get huge exclamations about how strong you are. Or, how awful it is for someone so little to have to do something so anxiety-inducing and painful. These statements are true and always well-meaning. But, as the parent with pending surgery, you don’t feel strong. Plus, you don’t want to talk about how awful the experience will be for your little one. You only want to get it done.

Over the years, we have helped many people recover after traumatic medical treatments. But as we all know, preventing a trauma is always the preferable route. That’s why we’ve developed a list of tips that every parent should have before taking a little one into surgery

Top 10 Things Parents Can Do To Cope With Your Child’s Surgery

 

1. Give Yourself Permission

 

Parents expect and plan for their children to be uncomfortable. We pack their security blankets and the extra soft socks. We try to expect their every need. But you will have needs, too. Allow yourself to meet your own needs while meeting your child’s needs. Sometimes even giving yourself permission to go to the restroom or leave to grab a bite to eat is hard. But, if you want to be the best for your child, your needs are important, too. Meeting your own needs makes you a better parent, particularly during times of stress.

2. Practice A mental stop sign

 

Going into surgery is scary. Sending your kid into surgery is terrifying. You are aware of all the possibilities for complications and none of them feel acceptable to you. During scary times like these, it is normal for your brain to provide intrusive thoughts about worst-case scenarios. This may include graphic and detailed visions of your child in pain or worse. But to your brain, these images start a chain reaction of stress hormones in your body. As a result, it can almost be as if you are going through it. You need to know these flashes are normal (not predictive) and are not helpful. Tell yourself to stop the parade of horrific images.

3. Bring A Distraction

 

Telling yourself to stop those visions of your child in distress is much easier said than done. Come prepared with something else to distract your mind while your baby is back there. Do you like having something to do with your hands? If so, consider bringing some knitting or a notepad to scribble. Bring a good book or sudoku–anything that will help you re-focus when you find yourself stuck in worry. 

4. Take A Long-term Perspective

 

I have found that it is very easy to get lost in the moment during these stressful times. And, yes, it’s important to take each moment as they come. But an image of your child in your arms fully soothed and with a little smile on his/her face as he/she recovers can be a good reminder that this too will pass. Better yet, see him/her playing again & happy. This way, the visualizations making your body feel as if it’s happening are working for good, not evil.

5. Make Friends With The Nurses

 

Let’s face it. The doctor is a vital part of any surgery, but it’s the nurses that make or break the experience. They are the ones who spend the most time with you and your child. They are the ones who know how to get an extra Popsicle for your little man/lady. Or, which doctor to approach about a necessary, but controversial treatment. I would not even be above bribing some goodwill with baked goods if it came down to it. The bottom line, you want the nurses to want to help you. So, make sure you thank them and treat them with the respect they deserve.

6. Lean On A Partner or Support Person

 

Having two people is golden. It allows you to have some support. It provides two heads to keep track of all the details. Plus, it allows one of you to do the holding of your child while the other one can focus on talking to the doctor. It also allows one of you to run out for food without leaving your child alone. Even if you are Super Parent of The Year, believe me, you will do better with help. So, if you are a single parent, ask a friend or family member to help out. And get creative if someone can’t be present due to distance or COVID-19 restrictions. Get them on the phone or text instead. 

7. Bring Ear plugs/Ear Buds

 

If you’ve ever been in a recovery room, you know all that separates you from the person next to you is a thin sheet. Babies and kids coming out of anesthesia are prone to crying…loudly. If you are at all sensitive to sound, you might want to consider some earplugs or something to lower the sound. You will already feel stressed and worried about your kid. You don’t need to also have a reaction to the kid (or kids) down the hall who are screaming and difficult to soothe.

8. Pack Items That Soothe The Senses

 

One of the things that makes people cringe the most when they are working through difficult memories of hospital experiences is the smells and other sensory issues. So, much like attending to your auditory senses in #7, this tip is about attending to the other senses. When you pack your bag, consider throwing in a nice smelling lotion or essential oil. Look through some beautiful pictures on your phone. Or, bring something that feels soft or grounding. It doesn’t have to be a ton of things. But, bringing in some positive sensory experiences can help you to feel grounded

9. Practice Patience

One of the things that makes people cringe the most when they are working through difficult memories of hospital experiences is the smells and other sensory issues. So, much like attending to your auditory senses in #7, this tip is about attending to the other senses. When you pack your bag, consider throwing in a nice smelling lotion or essential oil. Look through some beautiful pictures on your phone. Or, bring something that feels soft or grounding. It doesn’t have to be a ton of things. But, bringing in some positive sensory experiences can help you to feel grounded.

10. Take A Night Out

Yes, that’s right. You need to remember that having your kid go through surgery is tough. Their needs are naturally going to be primary for a bit. But once the dust settles, make it a priority to get out on the town and blow off some steam adult-style. You’ve earned it

All in all, a little forethought can be worth its weight in gold when your child is heading off to surgery. Most parents naturally do this for their kids, but don’t forget to include some self-care! Your little one is depending on you to be calm and confident. And, even with all this preparation, things can still feel traumatic. If so, our licensed clinicians are here to help

Begin Therapy for Parents in Austin, TX and Round Rock, TX

You don’t have to struggle with the stress of your child’s surgery on your own. Our team of caring therapists has the training and experience to support you and your family through this difficult time. We offer support from our Round Rock, TX-based therapy practice. We also offer support throughout the state to Texas via online therapy. To start your therapy journey, please follow these simple steps:
 
2. Meet with a caring therapist
3. Start receiving support for parental stress!

Other Services Offered with Hope For The Journey

Therapy for parents isn’t the only service offered at our Round Rock-based therapy practice. Other services provided also include therapy for depression, domestic violence, sexual assault, and PTSD. Our team offers support for children, teens and young adults, men, couples, and the LGBTQ community, Learn more about us by contacting our team or visiting our community involvement page today!
 
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