You find yourself in a strange place with huge lights that you’ve not seen before. Your heart is beating fast. You see strange men dressed in green outfits with their faces covered. Some of them are holding strange devices. You’re kicking and screaming to let you go, but nobody listens to you.
Sounds like a horror movie right? Add to that, the fact that you’re six years old. Getting an eye surgery can be scary even as an adult. So how do you prepare your child for eye surgery? Over the years we’ve had many parents who’ve prepared their children so wonderfully that the kids have actually enjoyed their day as if it were a party! (No, we’re not exaggerating!) We decided to compile advice from some of these parents who aced it. We hope this helps you prepare your child for eye surgery so that the experience is one that they can’t stop gushing about!
Children learn the best by watching. That includes learning to be anxious about hospitals and doctors. If they sense fear in you, they will pick it up instantly.
Mohit’s mother says, “From the first moment that surgery was mentioned by Dr. Prachi, I made sure to keep a check on my tone and expression. I remember, after I had taken the first few seconds to gather myself, I had turned to my son and said, ‘Oh wow! You’re going to get to see the most special part of the hospital!’”
Preesha’s mother adds, “I kept hyping up what a fun day it was going to be, full of new activities, toys and how she would get to spend the whole day with Mumma & Papa both.”
Do whatever it takes to tackle your anxiety – read up about the eye surgery and ask questions to your eye doctor. Shift your focus on making it a big day for your child.
When to tell your child
If your child is less than six years of age, you can tell your child just one to two days in advance. Toddlers do not have a well developed sense of time and may worry if told too early. Older children can be told a week in advance so that they have enough time to process it.
What to tell your child
Do not lie to your kid. Be honest but gentle with them about why they need to go to the hospital. Use simple words that your child will understand. Explain only what your kid will be experiencing directly. Assure your child that the surgery is not because of something they did.
Aarush’s father shares an important tip, “I made sure that my choice of words was positive. Instead of saying’ the doctor will put you to sleep’, I told him that he’ll be getting medicines that will help him sleep so deeply that he wouldn’t feel a thing. Instead of ‘the doctor will cut your eyes’, I told him that the surgery will help him see better.”
Older children can be asked questions like, ‘What are you thinking about your eye operation? Is there anything that may be difficult for you?’ Let your child know that you are open to answering any questions that they may have now or later.
Children’s books about going to the hospital can be good conversation starters that give your kids a chance to voice their concerns, misunderstandings or fears. Mrunmayi’s mother agrees, “My daughter loves Peppa Pig. We ordered the book about Peppa Pig going to the hospital the week before her surgery. When it was time for her surgery, she was quite enthusiastic about everything around that was ‘just like in the story’.”
Before your child’s eye surgery
Involve your child in packing his or her bag to prepare for the hospital visit. Give them the choice to pick a favourite stuffed toy or blanket that they may want to carry along. Doing so gives them a sense of control.
On the day of your child’s eye surgery
We will let you be with your child for as long as it is possible. The most important thing would be to keep your child’s mind off food. Eating and drinking can cause problems like choking or vomiting once they have been given their anaesthesia. Keep food and fluids out of sight.
Few pointers specific to the age of your child
Infants: Age 0 – 1 year: Bring your child’s pacifiers, rattles or toys along. Rocking them, stroking their hair, or singing to them could be good ways to soothe them.
Toddlers: Ages 1 – 3 years: Waiting before going in for surgery may make them cranky and fussy. If they are distracted with their favourite activities or toys, their minds can be kept off food. (We’ve seen that happen when they’re glued to the mobile, haven’t we?)
Pre-schoolers: Ages 4 – 5 years: Play medical kits can help prepare them. Reyansh’s father chips in, “Coincidentally, Reyansh’s Aaji had gifted him a doctor set two days before Dr. Prachi Agashe advised squint surgery. We ‘performed eye surgery’ on his teddy bear countlessly. Reyansh even carried it with him to the hospital and was excited to find bigger versions of his doctor set.” Be sure to address their expectations because kids at this age have vivid imaginations about what the experience will be like.
School Age: Ages 6 – 12 years: Children in this age are usually concerned about missing school friends, having pain after their eye surgery and whether their appearance will change. Discuss strategies like deep breathing and squeezing stress balls to deal with pain.
Adolescents: Ages 13 and above: Teens may have concerns about waking up during their surgery or not waking up after or what their friends will think about how they would look after surgery. Offer rational explanations about safety. Encourage your teen to write down all their questions and feel free to ask them to their nurse or doctor at Agashe hospital. Let them know that even adults can be scared and that expressing fear is okay.
We hope you find these tips useful on how to prepare your child for eye surgery. Do share this with other parents who have been advised eye surgery for their child. In case of any queries, feel free to reach out to Paediatric Ophthalmologist Dr. Prachi Agashe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9867539883.