When you first learn your child needs surgery, you may go into panic mode. While you’re surely going to be nervous for even a minor procedure– it’s your child after all – remember that it’s the child who actually has to go through the procedure. That’s a lot for any boy or girl to process.

Try these tips from pediatric surgeon Daniel Relles, MD, to help your child get ready before surgery.

Gather information

Daniel Relles, MD
Pediatric surgery

Learn whatever you can about your child’s procedure. Don’t hesitate to ask questions during or after your child’s pediatric surgical specialist office visit. There is a great deal of conflicting information on the internet, so make sure to ask about what resources are best to educate yourself and your child. Then do your best to explain what will occur. Tailor your message to your child’s age and maturity level.

Know your child

Infants, toddlers and preschoolers have different levels of fearing the unknown than older children. For example, a younger child may need reassurance about trusting the doctors and nurses. Older children (ages 10 and up) are more aware of their bodies and can better understand what will happen during surgery. Know your child’s concerns and always respond with honesty.

Show the way

For younger children, you can use illustrations, a doll or a stuffed animal to explain where the incisions, scars or “ouchies” will be. Look for age-appropriate books and other resources about the surgery. You also may arrange a tour of our surgery center (the J.B. and Kathleen Reilly Children’s Surgery Center) to get acclimated before the procedure.

Let your child own it

This is especially important for older children who have their own questions and concerns. They know it’s their bodies that will undergo the surgery, and they should be active participants in the process. But ownership extends to younger kids too. Let your child choose which toy to bring along. If your child’s surgery involves an overnight stay, let your child pack the suitcase. 

Be positive and supportive

The more upbeat and reassuring you can be, the easier it will be for the patient and the siblings in your house. Even the most independent teenagers need that support. Once you’re inside the Children’s Surgery Center or the main operating room at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, you will find toys, games, iPads and other kid-friendly features that can help distract your child and put him or her at ease. You’ll also have access to child-life specialists and pediatric anesthesiologists who comfort children. It’s a team effort we all take seriously. Your help in preparing your child will help to ensure a smooth surgery day.