PLASTIC SURGERY - How to Tell a Child ?

Updated on October 23, 2012
H.R. asks from Fairbanks, AK
23 answers

OK Let me get straight to the point..
I am planning in 3 weeks to get a tummy tuck. I have been mentally planning this for over a decade. My two teenagers know about it and have no issue with it (they know its extremely necessary). The issue is how to tell my 10 yr. old daughter. I don't want to scare her that I am getting surgery- but even more so, I don't like to glamorize or make it seems that vanity is top priority in this shallow culture we live in, where everyone wants to resemble Barbie and plastic surgery is extremely common. I am not trying to do it for reasons such as those... I try in our home never to emphasize weight or body types, as we all are unique - and I don't want to emphasize this as a cosmetic thing in her eyes. Like, 'if you don't like something fix it with surgery,' don't want that put in her mind. Not sure if I am making any sense, I just want her to know its a procedure I have to do - but I know I will get questions, Why ? what for ? etc. If anyone out there can give me some ideas on how to break the news to her (and how soon, like immediately or a few days before)? Let me know, I greatly appreciate it.

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answers from Portland on

I think "thou doth protest too much." Why would you be concerned that she would think that you're doing it for reasons that aren't true if you've been living an authentic life and have already taught her something different? She will believe what you've taught her up until now and what you say to her now.

Be honest. Don't bring up the reasons that aren't true/authentic. She's 10 and needs to know the truth. If you try to hide things from her she'll know and could learn that the way to relate with people is to be dishonest just like mom.

At 10 she should be a part of the process from beginning. She knows something's up. Tell her now.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

My kids were much younger when I had my breast reduction. I was honest with them and answered any questions they had. If it is not for cosmetic reasons, then simply explain what the reasons are.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Rochester on

Tell her the truth. If you say it's not for vanity reasons, or a don't-like-so-fix-it-with-surgery thing, then what is it? I assume it really is a don't-like-so-fix-it-with-surgery thing. Explain that (I assume) you've tried exercise and diet, but the skin is too damaged to respond. I would mention it casually ahead of time. It'll give her time to process it. Be patient with her questions.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

(sigh) if this is not medically necessary, then it's elective. You are making this choice to change the appearance of your body. This surgery is about appearance, not restoring proper function.

you are quite clear that you do not live in vanity, nor do you glamorize appearance. I honestly don't know how you can present this to your daughter without her seeing thru the veil you're trying to pull over her eyes.

& I want to be quite clear: I am in NO way judging your choices. Simply're doing to yourself exactly what you say you don't believe/follow, & since your daughter's 10 with teen siblings....she may not buy into "your line".

to me, that leaves honesty. Just tell her the truth & own your choices. It's simpler, it's easier, & it's how you want her to live. :)

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You can keep the glamour out of it by telling your daughter it is corrective surgery because your abdominal muscles were damaged after having three children. You don't have to go into any more details for the "why" questions.

Let her know that it is not an uncommon surgery and that you are in good hands. If she knows what to expect after the surgery -- no heavy lifting and a few weeks to recover -- then she probably won't worry about you.

Good luck to you, and you are going to look fabulous! I would love a tummy tuck, but I am too chicken to go under the knife ;-)

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

She's 10 years old, not 2.

Show her what you are having done and why you are doing it.

For example - my skin stretched out after having babies, my weight went up and down and **I** want to fix this, not because I want to look like Barbie - but because **I** want to feel better about myself or for whatever reason you are doing this.

Tell her what you are expecting to happen with this surgery. Recovery time, etc. I think you are stressing over this for the wrong reasons - it's not about being Barbie. It's about feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Good luck!!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Unfortunately for my daughter, by the time she was 10, I'd been in the hospital too many times to keep track of. There wasn't any way for me to hide anything from her. Even as a very, very young child, she was incredibly intelligent. I think if I'd muffy-fluffed around things too much, it would have frightened her even worse as if there was something I was afraid to tell her. Her imagination could have been a lot worse than just telling her the truth as age appropriately as possible. I let her know that I wasn't scared and that I had very good doctors taking care of me.

Your daughter is 10. She isn't 4 years old. I think you should just tell her the truth. You have your reasons for getting this procedure. You stand behind your reasons or you don't.

Best wishes.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

If YOU are not comfortable with the reasons you are having this surgery, then yes, it will be hard to justify this to your very impressionable 10 year old daughter.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

You don't. It's not her business. You are having abdominal surgery. You are having your muscles fixed. THAT is what you tell her if she asks why. You call it abdominal surgery, nothing more.

There is no reason to drop this on your daughter.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Just be honest. You need to do this for your health and there is no other option. You have chosen a good doctor so you know you will be fine..

She is 10, she can handle this.. Never underestimate what your child knows and what they can handle, when you just tell them the truth, with no drama..

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would shoot her straight. Reassure her that you have a very good surgeon and will be safe. In terms of sending the wrong message about values, I would trust that you have put in the ground work for a non-barbie value system. I grew up in a family where we got the message that physical appearance does not matter and it is what is on the inside that matters. My parents really established those notions in our family. When my mom got a nose job when I was in high school, it did not confuse me. I was able to make a distinction between barbie driven surgery and surgery
that is about being more comfortable. The ongoing messages I heard all along drowned out any potential confusion.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I agree with what the others have advised. Your daughter may be hearing the whispers in the family anyhow, and wondering what's going on. It may be worrying her.

So let her know you're going into the hospital for surgery. Emphasize that you're not ill and your life is not in danger. Let her know how long you'll be in the hospital and how long it will take for you to recover when you get home.

Encourage her to ask you *any* questions she wants, even if they might be "dumb" - you know, sometimes the "dumb" questions are the best ones. She may not ask anything right away; however, if you leave the questioning door open, you may get them over a period of time. That may be one reason to talk to her about this now. You know your girl well enough to know, probably, whether she'll ask out loud what she really wants to know. If she is a good asker, you can wait to go into more detail until she wants the detail. If she keeps her questions to herself (I was like that as a kid), you may have to do some of the explaining anyhow to ease what you know is in her mind.

I don't know your motives for the procedure, so I'll make some up: "You know I've been getting healthier, and I've lost a lot of that fat, which has been good, and I'm very thankful. But when you lose fat, you don't always lose the skin you need to lose - like THIS skin. Sometimes that has to be done by a doctor. Dr. Smith is going to..." and you explain briefly what will happen to you... "I'm going to look very weird at first and be very sore, and it's going to take me several weeks to get well, but then I'll be able to hike more and ride a bicycle and..." and you list the real benefits of the procedure.

Believe me, when she sees you right after surgery, "glamour" is going to be the word furthest from her mind.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I say be honest. Don't underestimate what a child knows or has heard.

If you are dishonest with them, then you are giving the child permission per say to be dishonest with you in the future because you are modeling that behavior.

At 10 yrs old, she will know (if she hasn't already heard) what you are doing.

I don't have anything against someone having plastic surgery but I have seen what it can do to a child's thoughts regarding body image. Years ago, I helped an ex-friend after she has a nose job and stayed inside her home until she was healed, took care of her elementary school aged daughter, ran errands, etc (yes I was used but I caredabout her child)....then a couple years after that, she came into town to get a chin implant and lip work done and I witnessned her now deceased daughter crying and asking her not to have surgery again because she loved her and she was so pretty. GRANTED... this woman was hooked on looking like Barbie and her reasons were FAR different from yours.

You have a very valid reason for what you are doing. Just be honest.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

take her in the bathroom with you and show her what you are going to have tucked. i had a breast reduction done a few years ago(best thing i have done) and my son understood the why and wants of it. and he was only in 1st grade at the time. he even told me afterwards that i looked better!! and after your surgery show her the "art" that was done on you...just involve her and she will be alright!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I wouldn't tell her. And if she does need to know something just say the Dr had to fix your stomach. If you treat it like a broken toe that had to be reset I bet she won't think anything of it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

I've had this question cross my mind lately too. I will very likely get breast implants in a year or two, I've always disliked my breasts and the dislike has grown since having my daughter. I don't feel good about how I look, but on the other hand I am having a hard time with the impression I feel this gives my kids. But I would explain it as a matter of self esteem and in my case keep in mind that I already have body alterations in the form of piercings and tattoos and I don't feel the need to explain those.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'd be honest with her without scaring her. You've obviously given this a LOT of thought, so share some with her. If it's extremely necessary, you explain to her why. We are all allowed to be a little vain and if some vanity is part of it, then that's fine, too. She's 10. Give yourselves both a little credit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have a 10 year-old daughter. I would share with her my thought processes and I would answer her questions. I would find medical websites or apps where I could demonstrate what was going to be done (she's very interested in medical/human body subjects). 10 year-olds are smart. I wouldn't keep a thing from her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

If you are trying NOT to emphasize weight or body types in your home you are going to be sending a 10 year old girl mixed messages. Tweens have a hard time with body image as their bodies mature from childhood to adulthood. A 10 year old females does not realize what an adult's body has been through with possible pregnancies, weight gain, weight loss, etc. I personally would tell her that I am going in for stomach surgery and save the details of that surgery for when she can understand.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

It means that you dont like your stomach.... you cant lie to her. Yes, it is going to give her the wrong idea. She is a girl. She will think she can fix what she doesnt like with surgery.

You are an adult, you have a right to do what you want. I am not being mean. I just pray my little belly pooch will! That and when my girls tease me, i let them know that each one of their pregnancies gave that to me. My "badge of honor" as a wise elderly person told me :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I guess you need to tell us why it's "extremely necessary"
If I don't know the reason that you are doing it then I can't tell you what you should tell your daughter! If it's necessary then I don't understand why you can't just tell her what you told your teenagers.


answers from Boston on

I'd be honest with her. If it's for medical/physical reason then it shouldn't really be a problem..If it is for emotional/cosmetic reasons, then I definetly should approach carefully. You're right, you don't want to glamorize it..

I am 34 years old, and my own mother ( who is an RN) got a Face lift and was scared to tell me before she did it..I was furious, just because she didn't tell me. Although, at 60, she looks great for her age. I didn't think she needed it.

It doesn't matter how old, but you should tell your daughter before you have the surgery. It definelty makes a difference.



answers from Portland on

I would think a doctor would have scheduled you years ago if it was extremely necessary and you have been living with this for over a decade but that is besides the point. My friend was thinking of a tummy tuck but gave exercise a chance, I mean real exercise, running and weight lifting. She started at a weight over 200 lbs, a size 22, and situps hurt, after two months of exercising and eating healthier she was in a size 8, had lost a ton of inches, and situps no longer hurt. By the end of six months a tummy tuck was no longer on her list of things to do. She had had a couple of kids both by c-section. As far as telling your daughter, just be up front. Ten year olds are pretty smart and like others have said she might already know something is up.

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