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Guided Imagery for a Scared Little Girl Awaiting Surgery

13 Feb


My daughter is 7, and she's going to have a surgery during the summer. (The procedure is a bone graft to complete the repairs for her cleft palate.) I think she may benefit from a health journeys CD, but I don't know what would be best for her. She's anxious, scared, and has been having nightmares. Do you have any suggestions for her?

Thank you.


Dear Ginger,

Well, the bad news is that your little girl has been through a lot in her brief life, and it’s not fair that she’s only 7 and already has had to deal with a birth “defect”, some scary surgical procedures and painful recoveries.  

The good news is that because she’s only 7, she’s an ideal candidate to benefit from guided imagery, and she’s lucky enough to have a Mom who knows this and is already foraging for these resources.

I’d recommend Betty Mehling’s Magic Island for her, 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 have equal 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 is behind her.

And finally, Charlotte Reznick’s Discovering Your Special Place  will give her even more tools for her kit: Balloon Breath; Relaxing Muscles; Relaxing Your Body; Discovering Your Special Place; and Continuing to Relax with Music Only. Between these 3 excellent, kid-oriented audios, she’ll have plenty of variety for between now and summer. Plus, she’ll be developing a set of skills that will last her a lifetime.  

One other thing you could do, that might beef up the benefit significantly, is to snuggle up with her and together, listen to some adult guided imagery that relaxes you - maybe Relaxation & Wellness or Healthful Sleep.  She'll get a ton of benefit, just through osmosis, not to mention the closeness with you and the excellent behavior modeling you'll be giving her.  

Best wishes to both of you, and please write and let us know how she’s doing.

All best,

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