Friday 20 April 2018

David Coleman Column: I'm so worried about my child being circumcised I haven't told him yet

Photo posed by models. Getty Images
Photo posed by models. Getty Images
David Coleman

David Coleman

My three-year-old son is scheduled to go for a circumcision because of a tight foreskin.

We visited the consultant in his rooms. I told my son he was going to measure his legs and willy just to see if he was growing.

Of course, the visit went fine and I reassured him that he was a very big boy and growing very well.

I am now six weeks away from the operation and I have not mentioned it to my child!

I would appreciate your advice, as he has never been in a hospital or had any kind of medical procedure.

My main concern is that my brother-in-law had this procedure when he was nine years old and he said he can actually remember everything about it and he has awful memories of the whole experience.

He is 44 years old!

DAVID REPLIES

Preparation is the key to helping your son get through the experience of his circumcision. The more he knows in advance, the more predictable the experience will feel.

Knowing what to expect usually reduces anxiety. So you definitely need to mention it to him!

Sometimes when we anticipate something unpleasant, that anticipation can bring its own anxiety.

However, even in these circumstances, having more information than less is reassuring. So the first thing is to arm yourself with as much information as you can.

That way you will feel better able to deal with the situation and effectively support your son with simplified explanations.

It may also help to lessen your own understandable anxiety about your son having to have a circumcision.

Children are always more reassured when they know that an operation is needed and what might happen during any procedures.

So in gathering your information, be clear about the reason why he is being circumcised and about the procedure for his operation.

Is he experiencing pain or discomfort as a consequence of his tight foreskin? If so then this may give you a nice, clear reason why you are having it removed.

You can say that the doctor also noticed this when he was checking his growth the other week. Find out how long your son will be in hospital and whether it will be a general or local anaesthetic that he will receive.

It is really important that you know, yourself, what to expect so that you can try to fully answer his questions. If you wanted, you could bring him into the hospital for a visit in advance so that the building itself is familiar. There are also lots of age-appropriate picture books that describe the medical personnel and the procedures that young children can expect to meet on a trip to hospital.

The organisation Children in Hospital Ireland has a reading list of some books you might like to consider, as well as their own information for parents. Check out http://www.childreninhospital.ie/childrens-reading-list.

The other information that will be relevant is that having the operation will lead to temporary soreness afterwards.

I think it is best to warn children of this so that it is not a surprise in the hours and days afterwards, especially as there will be dressings to change and his penis will be very sensitive for the week or 10 days it will take to heal.

Children are very adaptable and can experience a whole range of upsetting experiences without being emotionally scarred for life as long as they have adult help and support to do so. Preparation in advance and lots of love, attention and understanding afterwards are what will reduce the likelihood of this common procedure being a lasting trauma.

Irish Independent

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