Abby printed the following letter from an operating room nurse whose experience is that overemotional parents can make the prospect of surgery even more terrifying for a small child:
DEAR ABBY: I am writing this as a mother of four and an operating room nurse for 30 years. Once again, I had to pull a crying mother from her child so I could take the child into the operating room.
I understand that a child having surgery is upsetting and stressful. My own children have had to have surgical procedures done, so I know the feeling. But if I can help parents understand one thing, it would be that the child looks to the parent for support. If the mother is crying and clinging at the bedside, the message the child receives is: If Mom is that upset, something bad must be about to happen to me.
No one is implying that you do not love your child or you are not worried about him or her, but it does no one any good if you have to be peeled off your child. Please send your little one off with kisses and encouraging words, and the child will be a little less frightened. — WISCONSIN R.N.
Yikes! Abby is behind this woman all the way, but unfortunately, I think she’s flubbed the details a bit:
DEAR WISCONSIN R.N.: I’m printing your letter verbatim. As traumatic as sending a child into surgery can be for both parent and child, the words a child needs to hear are, “You’ll be going to sleep, and when you wake up, Mommy will be right here. I love you. Now give me a kiss.” For the child’s sake, venting for stress relief should be saved for the waiting room.
1) I think “you’ll be going to sleep” should be part of a much larger conversation–simplified, age-appropriate, and not meant to terrify, surely, but kids deserve to hear more than just “naptime!” before the go under the knife. I’ll give Abby the benefit of the doubt here and assume she’s talking just about the moment when the parent has to leave the kid, not the grand scheme.
2) I don’t know a lot about hospitals, and maybe the rules are different for kids, but don’t patients go to “recovery” to come out of general anaesthesia, before they’re allowed to see anyone? (Or rather, anyone is allowed to see them?) Don’t promise a kid you’ll be there when they wake up if you won’t!
Abby’s sentiment here is good (usually is!) but she’s often a bit off on the small stuff–frustrating!