If you count my three C-sections (and I do!), then this week’s impending back surgery will be my 5th surgery. I’ve got to say, I’m a little nervous about going under the knife. My three children, though older now, also have varying degrees of anxiety and understanding about this hospital visit. My most recent surgery was almost ten years ago, and my oldest was only 4 ½. She’s now 14, so things are a lot different! I have to say, I’m thrilled to have children who can cook, clean, and even do the laundry while I recover!
Whether your kids are younger or older, and no matter if it’s an inpatient or outpatient procedure, there are some important things to do when preparing your children for a parent’s surgery and recovery.
Spend Time One on One With Your Kids
You’re not going to be able to do your normal activities for a period of time. So, set aside time in those crazy days before surgery to spend time with your kids one-on-one. Take one out for lunch or ice cream. Let her choose a fun activity to do together. Snuggle them extra long at night. Sure, there are errands to be run, groceries to be bought, and a house to clean. You’ll never regret spending those extra moments with your kids, especially if (God forbid!) there are any complications that make your recovery more difficult.
Talk About It
While tailoring the conversation to your child’s age is important, being clear and honest about the experience is crucial to help ease your child’s anxiety. Explain what is wrong, what the doctor is going to do to fix it, and how you will feel when you come home, or when they will come to visit you in the hospital.
It was so helpful for my kids to know my tummy was very sore after my last C-section so they had to be gentle when hugging mommy. This time, my kids understand my activity will be limited so I need their help with household tasks I usually complete.
They should also know who will stay with them (or where they will stay) and when they will be able to see you. This brings me to my next point:
Don’t Bring Them To Visit Right Away
It can be scary for kids to see a groggy mom or dad with tubes and wrappings everywhere. When possible, wait until you are feeling a bit more recovered, or even after being able to freshen up a bit. If you still have an IV or other things attached to you, explain to your child what each one is for so it’s a little less scary.
If your surgery is outpatient, give yourself some time to rest and recover at home before the kids come in and see you. Hopefully, you have an awesome friend or family member who can take the kids until later that evening, but if not, your husband or partner can keep the kids occupied while you rest.
Project Confidence and Optimism
As I said, I get a little nervous when I have to go under the knife, even for a planned C-section. There are always risks to surgery and my mind races with all the things that could go wrong. But it won’t do any good to talk about those things in front of the kids. If your surgery is very risky, then the conversation might be different; but for the most part, we need to be positive and optimistic about the surgery and recovery.
Your kids will forget you can’t do everything you always do and will want you to get back to being mommy right away. Be patient and understanding with their requests, but be firm in your need to take care of yourself. Enlist help if you need it. Swallow your pride and accept offered help from friends or family. It won’t do anyone any good if you end up back in the hospital with torn stitches or by re-injuring whatever you had repaired.
These things will go a long way in helping ease some of the worry and anxiety that comes with a parent’s surgery or hospital stay. And, if you’re like me, knowing my kids are okay helps me feel better too.
What tips would you add? Share them in the comments below!
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