Talking to Your Child
As your child grows up they will be more aware of things going on around them, including visits to the hospital and the ways in which they may be different from other children. It’s important for you to communicate openly and honestly with your child. This will help them grow up informed and confident about their cleft and their treatment.
About Their Cleft
- If you have not done so already, make some time to sit down with your child and explain their cleft in simple terms that they will understand. Baby pictures can be a big help, and they may enjoy seeing themselves grow and change. Encourage them to ask questions about any aspects of their condition or treatment. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll try to find out.
- Your child will already have had to deal with much more than most other children their age. Praise their bravery and reassure them that they’ll be well taken care of as they grow up.
- It’s helpful to teach your child a simple sentence or phrase to explain their cleft to other people. E.G. ‘I was born with a hole in my lip, but the doctors sewed it up and I’m fine now.’ This will help them face questions from their peers and others with confidence, especially when they start school
- Children who have had many hospital appointments in the past may feel anxious about visits in the future. They may associate the hospital with being uncomfortable or being under a lot of scrutiny.
- It helps if you can explain to your child exactly what the appointment is for and what they can expect. This will usually be explained in the appointment letter.
- If your child still seems overly anxious, you can mention this to the hospital staff and discuss ways they might be able to help.
- Surgery can be a scary time for anyone, even more so for children who won’t fully understand what’s happening. It’s important to make time to talk to your child about any upcoming surgery and make sure they have all their questions answered. Common questions include how long they will be in the hospital, how long they will take to recover, and if and when they will feel any pain or discomfort.
- Usually, you and your child will be able to discuss the procedure with the surgeon. Encourage your child to think of questions beforehand, no matter how ‘silly’, and write them down to make sure they’re answered.
- There are a number of books to help prepare children for a trip to the hospital, like ‘Monkey Has an Operation‘ from the Monkey Wellbeing series.
About Their Treatment
- In general, ensuring your child feels able to express any worries they have about any part of their care is very important. This will help them grow up feeling confident about taking charge of their own treatment.
- The Clinical Psychologist with your Cleft Team can help you and your child talk through any concerns at any point along the treatment pathway.
While it’s important to talk to your child about their cleft, it’s also important to remember that their life will be full of challenges and achievements which have nothing to do with their cleft. Having a cleft is only one part of who they are.