Preparing Your Children for Your Post-Surgical Recovery Period at Home
You’re in the hospital: you’ve just had surgery for a non-life-threatening condition. You will be released from the hospital soon. How do you prepare your children for what is to come?
When you return home, will you be able to walk, play, and perform other functions as you always have? If not, what will your limitations be? How long will your limitations last? How will those limitations affect your children? Think through all of these things before initiating discussion with your children. Except for children who are pre-verbal (i.e., infants), you should explain to your children what they will see and experience when you get home from the hospital. Give your children an opportunity to ask questions of you and be forthcoming but tactful in your replies. Concrete answers, as opposed to tentative answers, work best (i.e, “I won’t be able to drive or vacuum for six weeks, so the babysitter will be driving us places, and Daddy will be responsible for vacuuming the house.” as opposed to “I’m not sure what I’m going to be allowed to do. I think I’ll be able to drive, but, if not, the babysitter can do that for us, I think.”). Older children will typically ask for information with greater specificity than younger children usually seek. Your children will need to work through their fears and separation anxiety. Praise your children, tell them that you love them, and state that you look forward to being home with them soon.
On your release date and once you are home, do as much as is reasonable to make yourself look like you usually do when you are at home. Brush your hair (eliminate “bed head”), put on cosmetics, put on your regular clothes, etc. You want your children to see you looking as healthy and normalized as possible.
Encourage your family to maintain as much of the family’s routine as possible. Disrupting your children’s routines significantly can increase the likelihood that your children will perceive the experience as traumatic or difficult for them. Often, your children will have to absorb more responsibilities around the house for a while, but delegate household chores in an age-appropriate manner. If you have a wide variety of restrictions, consider having an extended family member come to your household to help on a routine basis until you are sufficiently recovered to resume performing the tasks yourself.
By taking these steps, you will be helping your children cope with your in-home recovery from surgery.