Fear of Surgery

My 10-year-old is going to have surgery for an undescended testicle and hernia. He has had limited involvement in health care and is very nervous. How can we help him relax? We found out today that the surgery is definite, and he cannot stop talking about it. He does horribly with needles, shots and taking medicine. I am a nurse but deal mostly with geriatric patients.

--A Parent Soup member

Your son, like many 10- to 15-year-olds, is nervous about his body and his health. We surveyed young adolescents for our book The Roller-Coaster Years. Obsessing about their body was paramount. Bodily harm was No. 5 on the worry list. Surely an operation triggers that Richter worry scale twofold. Add to that the fact that middlers feel emotions in a exaggerated way. His dread and fear of the unknown are magnified. To allay his fear:

*Explain exactly what his operation will entail.

*Have the doctor and nurses explain as well.

*Reassure him that his apprehension is normal, commonplace in patients of any age.

*Direct him to consider the future when he will be fine again. Young adolescents are focused in the now. For him the now is scary, so show him the long view.

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