For Parents and Caregivers

Tips to help a child having surgery

You are the best person to help your child. While it may be hard at times, try to be calm and reassuring. Give frequent hugs and praise. Provide comfort and distract your child with stories and pictures. Other things you can do:

  • Be patient with your child. Children may react to stressful events by crying, having temper tantrums, whining, clinging and acting out in frustration. These feelings and behaviors are common but often short-term.
  • Help your child understand what is going on. Use simple words that he or she can understand. If your child needs to go through something that may be painful, be honest about the fact that it may feel uncomfortable, but also explain how it will help his/her body. Then talk with your child about ways to make the experience easier such as asking questions, sitting on a parent’s lap or watching a movie.
  • Let your child talk about worries or feelings. Remind your child that it’s OK to be worried or cry, but also help him/her talk about feelings. Younger children are often better at expressing their feelings through play, drawing or story-telling. Listen to your child, and help your child know that these feelings are normal.
  • Help your child see the hospital staff as helpers. Remind your child that the staff try very hard to help children feel better.
  • Encourage your child to ask his/her own questions to the doctors or nurses. Young children may often be quieter in a strange setting. If they hesitate to ask questions, tell them that you can ask for them. It’s important for you as a parent to have correct information, so please ask your own questions, too.
  • Take care of yourself. If you are worried, upset or not getting sleep, it will be harder to help your child. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help. Talk about your worries with other adults, such as family, friends, a counselor, a member of the clergy or your doctor.
  • Tell us if your child has special needs. If your child has special needs, we suggest you call a child life specialist to make a custom plan to help your child get ready for surgery. To learn more, call the Prentiss Surgery Center Child Life Specialist at 216-844-1312.

Things you will be glad you brought

  • A phone charger
  • Things to help pass the time, like knitting or books to read
  • A list of your questions for the surgeon
  • A comfort item for your child or teen such as small toy, blanket, iPad®, iPod® or books. If your child is going to spend the night in the hospital, a responsible adult must stay with him/her for the rest of the day and overnight.
  • If you are staying overnight, pack any items you or your child might need, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and a change of clothes.

Helping your child cope with pain

Your child may be in pain or discomfort after surgery. We know that seeing this can be very hard for you. We may not be able to get rid of all pain with medicine, but will work with you to make your child as comfortable as we can. Good pain management can help your child’s healing. There are many things you can do to help your child cope with pain such as:

  • Be your child’s voice. Some children will not tell their health care team about pain but will tell you. Tell your child’s doctors and nurses if your child is in pain or uncomfortable.
  • Tell the health care team what words and signs your child uses to tell you that he or she is hurting. Also tell them about pain control methods and medicines that have and have not worked in the past.
  • Ask for help to manage your child’s pain or discomfort. Speak with your nurse or ask to see the pain team or child life specialist.
  • Speak up if your child’s pain is not getting better or if it is getting worse.

Use a pain control technique such as:

  • Deep breathing. Bubbles and pinwheels help children take deep breaths. With older children, teach them to breathe in deeply, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly breathe out through their nose.
  • Distraction. Some useful tools include music, pop-up books, treasure hunt books, magic wands, 3-D books and movies.
  • Relaxation. Music helps children relax. Give choices of music they like or, if your child is admitted to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, ask for a visit from a music therapist.
  • Play. Play helps children cope and learn. Giving a chance to play before, during and/or after a stressful event helps children gain control. This helps lessen stress and worry and gives a safe way to show their feelings.
  • Turning and changing positions. Try raising up their arm or leg with pillows. Older children may feel better lying on their sides with pillows behind their back and between their knees, to give support.

Your child may have pain or discomfort for many days after surgery. Trial and error may be the best way to find out what works well for your child. Please ask your nurse or doctor for advice if your child still has pain or if the pain gets worse.