Q&A: preparing 2-year-old for mom's surgery

Nikki writes:

"I am going to have shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and various other issues in 2 weeks. I have a 2 year old son who is a complete momma's boy. He loves for me to still pick him up, carry him to bed at night and etc. I am also apparently a human jungle gym. What advice would you give to help prepare my son for my surgery. I don't want him to feel that I'm not holding him and doing all that I used to because I don't want to anymore. Also what ways do you suggest that I might still be able to comfort him after surgery when I'm going to be pretty much couch ridden for awhile. Thanks!"

Ouch! I'm sorry about your shoulder.

I would prep him for the surgery by making a little book for him with drawings of you with him, and your shoulder, and you with your shoulder bandaged after the surgery. In the "before surgery" section you can make some drawings of stuff he does now (jumping and climbing on you, etc.) and in the "after surgery" section you can draw the stuff you'll be able to do with him while you're healing (read books, snuggle, watch videos, color, play with playdough, teach him how to get you bottles of water from the bottom shelf of the fridge, etc.).

You might also want to buy him a doll or bear or something that can go to the hospital with you and come back with a bandaged shoulder, so he has a "patient" to take care of. He can practice being gentle with the bear, or (and this might be even more useful for him) he might end up taking out any sad or bad feelings he has on the bear. He can bandage and un-bandage the bear, and generally just work out the process in his head with the bear.

Take the estimate the doctors give you about when you'll be able to go back to normal activities and tie it to a seasonal change of some sort. That will help him have some external marker to wait for. For example, he'll know that when all the leaves fall off the trees you'll be able to throw a ball with him again. Or when it starts to snow you'll be able to pick him up. You get the idea. (You could put it in the book if you wanted to, so you could go over it whenever you read the book together.)

I'd also make plans to have someone else available to be wild with him every day during your recovery time, if possible. If you have a relative or friend or babysitter who could come over and wrestle with him or run around outside with him then he'd still be getting in all his normal wild rumpus time but without hurting you.

Anything else I'm forgetting? I think he's going to be more anxious before the surgery than he will be once you come home. Once he sees that you're still the same, just not able to do everything you used to, he'll probably be fine for the most part.