💥🚑Medical preparation - P.L.A.N.E.💥🚑May 16, 2022
Preparation is KEYYYY for kids with anything new, or something they’ve not done in a while (🌶 SPICY kids🌶 especially prefer a lot of preparation for stuff).
As you’re gearing up for a medical intervention, here’s what you can do to prepare for the EPIC day.
Medical intervention is A LOT for anyone, but especially for kids, it requires a lot more patience and frustration tolerance than normal. It obviously also requires pain tolerance and allowing being poked and prodded. We all struggle with those things.
Remember what I always say?!
“You’re gonna pay either way", so why not make your life easier by INVESTING in preparation?! Your Future Self will thank you because your kids will be calmer & more patient!
Does this take time? Yep. But not much. Even if you spend 30 min to prepare + 30min of play. That’s HUGE.
This is the acronym I use for preparation:
P. Practice through play
Make a pretend hospital at home. You can model each role (check in with registrar, nurse who checks your blood pressure, doctor who checks the wound site or nurse who listens to your heart).
If possible, model the types of questions that will be asked and the purpose of each area in the hospital. Teach them all the new words and terms they’ll be hearing. Get their help to make signs, X-rays, medical charts and prescriptions. Make it fun!
L. Learn new words and terms
I would do this for ANY age - even a baby. They’re real people too and understand more than we think. Even if all they understand is that you’re speaking respectfully to them and trying to prepare them - they will sense that calming energy from you.
Hospital = give the definition of what it is: “it’s a safe and kind place to go when you’re sick or your body is having trouble. Doctors and nurses help us feel better.”
Oxygen / oxygen mask = “sometimes this mask is put on our face to help us breathe better. It may feel funny but it’s best to leave it on as it helps our body calm down and our brain can work smarter with it on.”
You can often get one at a chemist and use at home for prep. Put on yourself, on the child, on toys etc. Take turns using it and being doctor/patient.
Machines like X-ray or MRI or CT Scan - any machine they might need, explain what it does. Watch YouTube videos about it and draw pictures of it (the aim is to familiarise them with it so it’s not a surprise).
Empowering your kids to learn the terms associated with their procedure or intervention helps them feel more in control and less out of the loop.
A. Anticipate points of struggle
Will it be putting on a mask?
Waiting in line to check in?
Having to take clothes off?
Practicing it helps things feel less overwhelming and surprising.
N. New books, videos, pics
Books, videos and pics are so helpful! We have one book on the hospital topic (Usborne lift the flap books are my fave for explaining things and they have a great ‘Inside a Hospital’ one). You can also watch some YouTube videos of MRI’s, hospitals and photos of a busy ER etc.
Preparation in knowing the sounds of a hospital, or beeping machines, the view out the window, and the loud noises they may hear (an MRI machine for example) makes everything on the day seem familiar and keeps the brain calmer.
E. Explain expectations
In our practice of ‘playing hospital’ I mentioned many times, ‘oh it’s such a long wait. I’m gonna do my slow belly breathing to help my brain stay calm.’ I also kept reminding them that they’re allowed to feel anything they feel.
They're allowed to not want to be here, they're allowed to be angry or sad or happy. Every feeling is allowed. What you're not allowed to do is run away. I will hold you and keep you safe. We have to be still for the doctor to do their job.
All of this preparation means on a day filled with lots of NEW and lots of sensory overwhelm, their brains have a HUGE advantage in saying, “Oh yeah, I know the drill. I’ve done this before, this is all familiar.”
It may take you time in preparation, but if they feel like they’ve been prepared, it’ll save you time in tantrums, meltdowns and sensory overwhelm.
Before the intervention or procedure you can have a big cuddle and try to focus on staying calm yourself and exuding a calm, confident leader-type energy.
I like to visualise a lighthouse in my mind. My child is in the raging storm, stuck in a tiny boat. I am watching helplessly from the lighthouse as they row into the harbor. I can be tremendously helpful by being a calm and stable presence during their storm, guiding them to safety.
After the intervention or procedure, you can do the same, and just remind them, “It’s over now. You're safe with me. That was hard. You didn’t want them to poke you there / stick that thing up your nose / give you a needle in your arm. You didn’t want that to happen. You were feeling nervous and worried when they held you down. I know, I hear you. That made you cry. That makes sense. Everyone cries when our body has to do stuff we don’t want it to do.
"It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to let it out. You’re safe with me. It’s over. I’m here. I’m with you.”
Being factual, and not using words like 'brave' or 'tough', but instead focusing on labeling the emotions, validating their experience and reassuring them that it’s over and 'I’m here with you'.
I have another post on medical trauma that explains the “after” in more detail. 🥰
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