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Can Guided Imagery Calm a Scared Little Girl Facing Surgery?

02 Oct

Can you recommend guided imagery for my daughter, who is anxious and frightened over upcoming surgery?

Our re-issuing of Magic Island under our Health Journeys label sent us looking back in our archives for times we recommended this extraordinary audio to a concerned parent or teacher. There were a lot of them.  Here’s one from over a dozen years ago – this “kid” has to be all grown up by now.

Dear Belleruth,

My 7 year old daughter will be having surgery in two months. She is facing a bone graft to complete repairs for a cleft palate.  She is very anxious and frightened and just started having nightmares. I think she could benefit from a guided meditation, but I’m not sure what would be best. What do you recommend?

Thank you.
Gerri

 

Dear Gerri,

Well, the bad news is that your seven year old has been through a lot in her brief life – scary surgical procedures and painful recoveries.  

The good news is that, because she’s only seven, she’s a perfect candidate to benefit greatly from guided imagery (kids just soak it up), and she’s got a Mom who’s on top of this and already foraging for resources.

First and foremost, I’d recommend giving her Betty Mehling’s Magic Island, to help her regain a sense of mastery over her situation, plug into her own sense of resourcefulness and enhance feelings of control and well-being.  This is the same recording that cut down the need for sedatives in terrified kids undergoing MRI’s at Denver Children’s Hospital. I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t do her a world of good.

To help with the nightmares, I also have great enthusiasm for Sleep Fairy, another all-time favorite around here. The Sleep Fairy will offer her progressive relaxation, remembering positive events of the day, guided imagery, happy dream suggestions and positive affirmations. You can also encourage her to imagine, right as she’s falling asleep, how good she’ll look and feel, going about her day, after this surgery and recovery are behind her.

Another thing you can do, is to snuggle up with her and together, the two of you can listen to some adult guided imagery that relaxes you - maybe Relaxation & Wellness or Healthful Sleep.  She'll get a ton of benefit, just through the osmosis of snuggling up to your becalmed self, not to mention the closeness and sense of safety with you, and the excellent behavior modeling you'll be giving her. (And who knows, maybe you could use some guided imagery, too – this can’t be a day at the beach for you either, Mom.)

Best wishes to both of you.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award