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How to Prepare Your Child for Otoplasty

As a parent, you no-doubt remember many of your child’s firsts:  the first time you left them with a baby sitter, the first time they got on the school bus, their first sleep-over. Mostly, these life events come and go without a problem, thanks to a little preparation. Likewise, when you take the time to prepare your child, otoplasty (aka ear reduction surgery) can be one of their many milestones on their way to adulthood.

Sure, the thought of surgery can be frightening to children and their parents. Otoplasty doesn’t have to be. If you take the time to educate your child, you both can have a smooth experience through this transformative process.

As a parent, your child’s attitude towards their surgery starts with you.  Despite what your friends and family might say, you are the ultimate authority.  As such, you must arm yourself with enough information to make a confident decision. And then, you can pass that information, and your confidence, to your child.

In this post, we’ll review the procedure and discuss some of the critical steps along the way, including how to prepare your child for the surgery and recovery. And, you’ll learn why it’s critical for your child to meet the surgeon beforehand.

Why You’ve Chosen Otoplasty

Otoplasty is a surgery designed to reduce the size or protrusion of the ears through strategically-placed incisions. It’s an outpatient, one-day procedure performed under local or general anesthesia. The ideal candidates are children around the age of five or six – a time when the body’s cartilage heals quickly.  Older children and adults, however, can successfully receive the surgery as well.  Recovery usually lasts one to two weeks.

In teens and younger kids, anticipated or actual bullying or teasing is one of the most common reasons parents consider otoplasty for their children.  We know that bullying can have a life-long impact on the social and emotional well-being of a person, and the impacts of struggling socially can have serious repercussions.  These can range from lowered self-esteem and poor performance at school or work to – at the extreme – criminal behavior.

And as with any issue involving children, bullying stirs up a wide range of strong emotions and opinions in adults.  Some adults close to you will fully support and even commend you for choosing otoplasty.  Others may have views that differ.  Either way, know that you have the ultimate responsibility and authority to decide what is best for your child.

Even without hearing a single negative remark, your son or daughter will eventually notice that they have large or overly protruding ears.  They may purposely choose hairstyles that cover their ears or avoid hats that make them look more prominent.  In doing so, they may even experience limitations in activities they wish to pursue.

No matter your reason for choosing otoplasty, trust your decision and hold firm to it.  It will help you present the details of surgery and recovery with assuredness, which will ultimately increase your child’s comfort level, too.

Meet Your Doctor One-on-one

If possible, arrange for a one-on-one consultation without your child and, once you are certain that an otoplasty is the right decision, one with all three of you. Both meetings can take place in the same visit or separately, depending on what’s customary for your doctor and where you are in the decision-making process.

In your one-on-one visit, be sure to review your child’s physical preparation for surgery, what happens in detail the day of, as well as recovery.  Ask for any supporting materials like timelines and surgery check-lists.  And don’t hold back any questions you may have, however silly you think they sound.

Chances are, if you’re wondering about something, your child will be, too.  If he or she is elementary age or older, they’ll want to know what’s going to happen and how.  If your child is younger, they’ll probably be most worried about separation from you, so you’ll want to know the exact sequence of events.

As for recovery, be sure to ask what medicines your doctor recommends to manage any initial discomfort. Your child will also need to wear a protective headband during that first week or so after surgery.  Explore options for the recovery period, especially if you know your child is image-conscious.    

Have Your Child Meet Your Doctor and Staff

Meeting your physician can make a lasting and positive impression on your child.  A doctor who communicates well and relates to children can connect and gain your child’s trust on a level different than your own.

When your child sees that you trust your physician, they’re more likely to do the same. Allow your doctor to explain otoplasty. Be sure to clarify anything your child doesn’t understand.  School-age kids and teens will appreciate details.  Younger children are better with a simple explanation.

And your doctor isn’t the only person in the office your child can learn from. It’s also good for them to meet the people they’ll see on surgery day.  Especially for younger children, a familiar face can go a long way to provide comfort during times of uncertainty.  Even disinterested teenagers may secretly appreciate recognizing people on their otoplasty day.

If you ask, the office staff may have pictures of children before and after their surgery. Along with each photo, they may have stories of each particular child and how they felt about otoplasty in the long term.

And don’t forget your child’s impression of the office itself. Today’s modern, sophisticated plastic surgery clinics are full of lasers, x-rays, and other high tech machines. You might just be planting the seed for their interest in medicine later in life.

The Day of Surgery

To best prepare your child for surgery, make sure you keep your explanations matched to their level of interest and understanding.  Avoid medical terms. They’ll only confuse and distract them.  If your description is simple, the surgery will sound simple.

To start, tell your child the day of surgery may start with them skipping breakfast so they can take the medicine that will be needed. When you both arrive at your doctor’s office,  your child will change into a unique gown for the operation.  It may feel cold, but they will give you a bed to lay in and a blanket.

The nurses at the clinic will then have them breathe out a mask with a balloon on it that will contain air with medicine in it.  This medicine will make them fall asleep.

When they wake up, they’ll have bandages on their head, and they’ll feel a little sleepy.  The surgery will be over, and they will not have felt any of it. You’ll also be there by their side when they wake up.

Then after a while, they’ll change back into their regular clothes and go back home with you.  As medicine from surgery starts to wear off, they may feel a little sore.  Let them know there will be medicine they can take to help, and many other children have felt the same way before.

That night and for the next week, they’ll need to sleep in a chair to keep their head up.  The next day, the two of you will return to the doctors, and he or she will remove the bandages on their head.

The Week After – Who and Where

Recovery is where you, as a parent, must take over. Planning for surgery but not recovery is like planting a flower and not watering it. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to make your child even more comfortable with the process. Let’s look at what happens after surgery how you can prepare for it.

After the bandages are removed, your child will need to start wearing a protective headband.  You may also have to return within a few days to have sutures removed. Although they don’t need a detailed timeline, let your child know it’s normal to visit the doctor a few times after the operation.

They’ll need to take off at least a week from school and avoid anything like sports or playing outside.  Make sure they know their new ears are healing, so their body must rest.

Who will help them through this period of rest and healing? That’s a question you, as a parent, need to answer in advance.  Will you need to take off work, or will your spouse?  Will you require the help of a relative?  Before you discuss recovery with your child, it’s helpful to have these questions answered.

In addition to knowing who they’ll be with, it’s important to know where. At your house?  At grandmas?  You’ll want a comfortable and familiar environment for you child to make their recovery as pleasant as possible.

The Week After – What to Do

Beyond determining where they’ll recover, you want to decide what they’ll do to pass the time. As you know, children tend to focus on whatever bothers them in moments of boredom. Engaging but non-strenuous activities can be the best way to keep their mind off a couple of sore ears.

Don’t forget that you know your daughter or son better than anyone else – their likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc.  Use this knowledge to design the most fun recovery time possible. Does your child like movies?  Rent some they haven’t seen or check out what’s on Disney+ or Netflix.  Do they prefer books?  Pick up something that will have reading while their ears are healing.

Of course, don’t forget that they can spend time with you or your spouse as well.  The two of you could play a board game, take a trip to the store, go out to lunch, or anything else as long as it’s low-stress and doesn’t have them moving around too much.  Whatever activities you choose for their recovery period, they can be a way of making your child feel comfortable and even look forward to their healing period.

Thoughts About Second Thoughts

In the days leading up to surgery, if your child seems uneasy, talk with them about their concerns.  They may have questions that were left unanswered.  And if you can’t address them yourself, call your doctor.

Make sure your child knows that otoplasty is about choosing to change your appearance – not about fixing something or someone that’s broken. It’s about how you feel about your own body, not about someone else’s opinion.

Also, make sure they know they’re not having otoplasty because they’ve done something wrong or because you think they’re unattractive. This mistaken belief might come from thinking of the operation as painful or severe and, therefore, a punishment.

Finally, tell them that know that operations on someone’s body are personal and that it should remain a family secret until after they return to school.  Even the most well-meaning classmates can spread misinformation that can be hurtful.

Next Steps

To learn more about otoplasty today, contact Dr. Sajjadian at 949-515-0550 in his Newport Beach, CA office today!