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Need help: children reacting to surgery/stressing

lisa burekllisa burek Posts: 855
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Fellow Spineys and Neckies,

I need your help. Those of you with young kids, before your surgery (or chronic pain issues), did any of your children seem to regress and show stressful behavior?

My 5 year old has always been shy and clingy, however we were having some success with helping her come out of her shell.

I have tried to keep my issues in the "middle ground". My girls know I have back problems and that I will be having surgery to help me feel better, be a better Mom, etc. I don't give them details about what will actually happen with the surgery and try to play things down a bit so as not to scare them.

I have noticed that my one daughter is having issues and I think it may be due to her feeling stress about me going into the hospital and being away for a few days. Oh yeah, we recently had to euthanize our young dog because of aggression problems. I know this still upsets her, she misses Ruby.

I have noticed her sucking her thumb more, with her "lovey". She is giving me a hard time with getting ready for preschool, its become a struggle, she just "doesn't want to go". She wants to stay in bed, get up when she wants and just stay home with me.

Obviously this is not good. I am just wondering if this is a temporary thing that will go away once I have come home and recuperated. Or, does she have bigger issues and the surgery is just happening at the same time?

Has anyone dealt with issues like this? Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.


  • i have had to neck surgery,s in the past 2 years. i have 5 children at home with me, they have all reacted in different ways. afew have been understanding and some have gone as far as they could to see what they could away with. I am 1 week post op from my last surgery and this time my wife and i were up front and told them what it was for and what was gunna happen. So far they all have been very helpful and respectful. i think some times it is just a phase with kids. thats just my opinion but i think they will out grow it. dont know if that helps you but i thought i would share it with you. good luck and i hope you feel better soon

  • Hi - it's not surprising. Your daughter is undergoing a lot of stress. Losing a dog who is a friend is very difficult. Now her mom is "sick" so despite playing it down, kids are like our pets sometimes . . .they have a sixth sense.

    I don't have advice but perhaps you can give her something 'special' to hold for you while you are away. Tell her that you need her help and you need to her hold a special necklace or pin or rosary beads for you. It might give her a job and make her feel like she's doing something very important to help mom. Not sure if it's good advice but just something I thought of.
  • I have two kids and we have been living with my back issues and surgery for 9 years. I have two pieces of advice. #1 give her some extra grace, she is going through an adjustment period and there is nothing wrong with a bit of regressing, let her suck her thumb and use her blanket as much as she wants, just don't make a big deal about it. That being said, the behavior issue needs to be addressed. Keeping clear on boundries will help so much in the long run. Give her extra hugs, kisses, but rules are rules and you need to stand firm on bedtime and stuff. Deep down inside, young children need structure in times of stress. Give yourself permission to be firm, she will be ok and not be damaged by boundries. Try to keep to a schedual and spend time with her doing quiet cuddling activities. She just needs some reassurance and normal structure. Also, know things will be ok. Kids are very resiliant, give yourself a break and try not to feel guilty about what you can and can't do. Love covers many faults, just give her love and kisses, lots of talking about what to expect, kids at her age do well with conversations about what is going to happen. Also, do you have a grandparent or special person who can take her out for special "dates" to Mc Donalds or ice cream etc. It might give her an outlet to release her stress and fear. Good luck, I know what it is like to agonize about your babies while trying to baby yourself. Keep in touch.
  • Kids do react badly to stress, even when you think you are hiding it from them, they do pick it up. At 5 your little one is still very young and there is a lot happening at home at the moment. I wouldn't worry too much about the thumbing sucking and clinginess for now. Give her more hugs if she needs them, but keep your boundaries firm. If you don't normally allow something now is not the time to let her do it.

    My 8 year old has high functioning autism and he is normally very stressed about my going away. We prepared him for my surgery, by showing him the hospital, telling him Mummy was having an operation to fix her back and that he would need to help afterwards with picking things up for me and keeping his toys tidy. While I was in the hospital my hubby took the boys to the tea shop for cake so that they associated the hospital with nice things.

    Just had a thought, when you told your daughter about the dog did you say something along the lines of "Ruby was sick and died", if so she may be anxious that because you are also "sick" that you will also die. Or she could be thinking that the dog was naughty and went away, then maybe if she is naughty you won't want her anymore. Kids can make very strange assumptions about things sometimes.

    Kids are very resilient and she will get through this ok. Good luck to you for your surgery

  • Thanks for your responses. I feel better now. Just got back from her well check up and talked to the Dr. She said that Phoebe is reacting to the stress she feels. Once I am back home and doing better she should, hopefully, bounce back.

    Hearing from other spineys that have gone through this is very helpful.
  • This is normal for all kids. I have had c4-5 thru 7 done on Oct 6 and even my teens were texting me right out of surgery to make sure that I would answer, Do you know how hard it is to text coming out of anesthisea--lol. It is a phase that they come through though. As with the previous post, still be firm with the boundaries, start now with quiet times with you and your daughter. It will certainly help when you spend time together after and can't run after her and play. With my youngest child I called it big girl time. It works.

    I am up for two more surgeries, and I am sure that we will be doing this chaotically odd behavior again, and that's OK, we'll get through it.

    Good luck to you :-)
  • Hi Lisa,

    My girls are a bit off to. I did get my one Daughter to open up a bit about her feelings and she said she is scared of them putting the mask on me. I told her that this is what Mommy has to do to get better and after the surgery she can come and see me. She is talking about it more though and that is good. It is getting closer for us hang in there.

    Talk to you soon, Sheila
  • Hi Lisa...

    I had an ACDF in March. I have a son who was 10 at the time, but he experienced the loss of his dad when he was 7. He was VERY worried leading up to my surgery and asked a lot of questions like, "What if something happens to you?" He was a little older than yours, so he was able to verbalize it better. The toughest thing for me was to not make promises that I might not be able to keep. I assured him that I looked hard for a doctor that I was confident in, and that the doctor would do the very best job he could to take care of me. I even had someone call my son's school right after surgery to let him know that I was fine!

    Just keep reassuring her, and know that it truly is just the way that stress comes out. Hang in there!!

  • My son was there for my surgery three weeks ago. He insisted on going with me as far as they'd let him before surgery. He's 19. He held my hand and sobbed a couple of times as they got me ready. It about tore my heart out. My other family was there and they all waited together and were there for each other. Beforehand, I prepared him as much as possible. We spent many nights laying around talking about it and hashing it all out. I think talking and discussing fears is the best thing to do. Discuss how you are going to look, how you may sound, what they should expect to see, and so on. I told my son to expect tubes and drains and IV machines and an oxygen tube, so he would be prepared. It's scary for them because they have no experience to compare it against. Just have the family all show unity and support in front of the children and let them know they can voice any concern whatsoever, even the D word. You have to voice your fears in order to face them and work through them so we did discuss death. Mine is older though. We discussed numbers and percentages and those statistics made him feel better and made him feel that he wasn't going to lose me, that is the bottom line and what they are truly afraid of. Just give lots of hugs and smiles and tell them it's going to work out. Sending positive thoughts your way.
  • If you are planning on having your kids visit you at the hospital, make sure the hospital will allow it. I know that right now none of the hospitals in our area are allowing visitors under the age of 18 to visit until spring time because of concerns about H1N1/swine flu. Just something to think about to prepare your kids. Maybe sending a picture of you after surgery to show them that you are OK via text message would help though?
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Is there anyone the kids know who may have recently had surgery and done well? You could use this and say "Remember how Aunt Sue had to have her knee fixed and she cam home and rested - but now Sue is just fine? Mommy will be have something like that on her back but will get back to normal after recovery".

    When I had my first lumbar surgery I was living with a friend who was recently divorced. Since I was single and she was newly divorced we got a house together (I paid less than an apartment and she got a live in babysitter). When I had my back surgery Jason (the baby) was only 4. We made him my special assistant in getting ready to go to the hospital (I let him pack wacky stuff he thought I needed such as a blankie and some pull ups) and also when I got home he was my designated helper. His 6 yr old sister was doing better with it so we concentrated on him and it seemed to work. It gave him a little control over the situation.

    We also decided neither of the kids would visit me in the hospital unless I was REALLY feeling up to it. I can't believe those same kids are now in 19 and 21 :-)
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
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