Behavior Q&A: Scared About Surgery

Q: Our 6-year-old is having sinus surgery in a few months. How can I prepare her for the separation, the hospital, and the pain -- especially since I'm a nervous wreck?

A: The person who needs to be prepared right now is you. If you're anxious, your child will be anxious, says Maureen Condon Abramson, a child-life specialist at Children's Hospital Boston. Call the surgeon with a list of questions that are worrying you. However, there's no need to discuss the surgery with your daughter until three to five days beforehand, Abramson says. "At that point, she'll need small bits of information about what's going to happen."

Most children's hospitals now have a child-life department staff that explains these details to kids during a preliminary visit. If you'll be preparing your daughter yourself, start by reminding her of the headaches she gets or the medicine she hates to take. Explain that the doctor wants to fix the problem, and she needs an operation. Keep in mind that most hospitals have revised the rules about parental visits. You can probably stay in the operating room while she's getting anesthesia and wait in the recovery room for her to wake up. Your child needs to know that you'll go through the entire experience together.

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