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Preparing the Teen for Surgery

What part about surgery is most stressful for a teen?

Teens like to actively participate in deciding what happens to them. This includes the kind of care they get. Parents need to act as partners with their teens in making healthcare decisions.

Doctor talking to teen girl and parent

Recognizing the fears that teens commonly have when going to a hospital will help you prepare. Common fears and concerns may include:

  • Loss of control

  • Being away from school and friends

  • Having a part of his or her body damaged or changed in appearance

  • Fear of surgery and its risks

  • Pain

  • Dying during surgery

  • Fear of the unknown

  • Fear of what others will think about them being sick or in the hospital

How do I prepare my teen for surgery?

These suggestions will help you prepare:

  • Let your teen to be part of the decision-making process. Encourage him or her to make a list of questions to ask the healthcare providers.

  • Your teen should start learning and preparing as soon as the decision to have surgery is made. Reading books and using the Internet, with supervision, are good places to start.

  • Child life specialists can provide age-appropriate explanations and help teens in finding a variety of trustworthy resources.

  • Teens are find it hard to admit that they don't understand something. Parents and healthcare professionals may need to explain treatment in several different ways, without making the teen feel uncomfortable.

  • Ask friends from school to send cards or call during recovery.

  • Your teen may find it helpful to write down his or her thoughts and feelings in a special notebook or journal.

  • Encourage your teen to pick out and bring a few comfort items from home, such as books, hand-held video games, a laptop computer (if there is Internet access available), or an iPod and headphones. If your child has a cellphone, be sure to bring the charging cable for it.

  • In the hospital, your teen may have mood swings. It's important to be patient and understanding. Your teen can become withdrawn and not want to talk or answer questions. There are times when he or she may need to be alone.

  • Let your teen know that it is OK to be afraid and to cry. He or she might need to know you have the same worries he or she does. Reassure him or her of your support.

  • Learn as much as you can about your teen's condition. Teens can tell when their parents are worried. The more you know, the better you will feel, and you will be able to help explain things.

  • Be truthful when answering questions. Teens may become angry if they think people are keeping secrets from them. They need to understand what is wrong with their body. How the information is given is often as important as what information is given.

  • Privacy is very much a need of your teen. Teens are often as private about their thoughts and feelings as they are about their bodies. Always respect their privacy.

Helpful books for teens and parents

Sharon Carter and Judy Monnig. 1987. Coping with a Hospital Stay. Rosen Publishing Group.

A. J. Hill. 1999. The Patients Guide to Anesthesia. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp.

Theodore Tyberg and Kenneth Rothaus. 1995. Hospital Smarts. New York: Hearst Books.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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