Even if school is still in session, we’re heading into Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of summer for many families. Summer means a lot of different things to different people but if you’re the parent of a school-aged child with a cleft, your summer schedule may center around one big event: A summer surgery.
There are as many great ways to prepare for surgery as there are children and families making those plans! Building a surgery calendar is just one of many ideas but we hope it inspires you to prepare for your own experience as you and your school-age child head to the hospital–whether it’s this summer or next winter.
A family surgery calendar is a simple way to help your child engage and invest in his or her own experience with surgery and hospitalization. School-aged children even as young as six or seven years have begun to develop a concrete sense of time though shorts spans–a few days to a few weeks–are probably most easily understood for younger school-aged children. A calendar can be good visual aid for children as they help prepare for their surgery.
- A few weeks prior to surgery, help your child mark the surgery date on a calendar. Stickers, markers, crayons, and tape are easy tools for kids to use as they build their calendar. Plan a few specific events leading up to the big day and add those to the calendar. Possibilities include:
- Visiting the hospital and admissions desk
- Choosing a special toy, blanket and or book to take along to the hospital
- Making a packing list and/or packing for the hospital stay
- Visiting the library to search for picture books about hospitals or surgery
- Make a few plans for after the surgery date and add those to the calendar. The surgery is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to take center stage. Help your child think about and look forward to life after surgery:
- Having a friend visit your child when he or she has returned home
- A family picnic or cookout
- The doctor’s all-clear for your child to eat a favorite food
- Any other activity that will help your child focus on returning to life-as-usual after surgery.
Post your family’s surgery calendar on the refrigerator or some other high-traffic area in your home (remember to keep it at kid-eye-level!). Add to it, revise it, and highlight days as they come and go. Print a Family Surgery Calendar.
Your treatment team coordinator will have other great information about your particular hospital and what to expect before and after your child’s surgery.