The Surgeon Minute

Talking with Your Family About Plastic Surgery

Talking with Your Family About Plastic Surgery

We’ve spent the better part of the current generation trying to teach ourselves, our friends, and certainly our children, that each one of us, no matter how unique, is lovable and attractive. If that’s the case, aren’t we setting ourselves up for an accusation of hypocrisy if we decide to have elective plastic surgery to change our looks in some way? How does plastic surgery fit into a time and place where we stress that each one of us is beautiful in his or her own right and that there are no mistakes?

It’s a tricky balance, especially when you’re trying to explain your decision to elect to have cosmetic plastic surgery to alter your looks in any variety of ways. Kristi Hustak, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon with a practice in Houston, agrees it’s a delicate subject. “It’s a tough thing.We live in an era where we want to teach our kids to love ourselves, to love our bodies, to embrace some of the changes through life and changing,” she explains. “We want them to be confident about themselves. And don’t feel like if there’s something they don’t like they can run away and change something right away. And instead embrace those changes especially ethnically and culturally and from a functional standpoint.”

“How do you discuss with somebody, especially someone you love, I’m changing something about me?” continues Dr. Hustak. “It’s a tough concept. My father-in-law is a psychologist and so we’ve discussed this a little bit.”

How to Discuss Depends Greatly on How ‘Old’ Your Audience Is

When you’ve made the choice to get some type of plastic surgery done, it’s time to let your son or daughter get used to the idea mom or dad is going to look differently soon. The key, according to Dr. Hustak, is to take into consideration how old the children are.

As tempting as it can be to hide surgical plans, communication between parents and children about this subject is vital and important. Patients should explain plans that fits the age and maturity level of each child. Younger kids need fewer details, but older children can understand a more candid discussion about plastic surgery.

Family and plastic surgery.

“Take into account when you’re discussing a tough issue their developmental age,” shares Hustak. “How you discuss elective plastic surgery with a five-year-old is going to be much different than a 13-year-old, a 18-year-old, and a 30-year-old. And so taking into consideration that age issue I think helps. I think there’s a lot of details you can omit. And I think the simpler the better. Less is more in this instance.”

Another Approach: Compare Surgery to Other Changes

Depending on the sensibilities of your family, it may be helpful to contrast the procedure with other cosmetic choices including makeup, hairstyling, fashion, piercings, nail painting, teeth whitening, and tattoos. Adults have a wide range of cosmetic options that are not options for children. These choices can help adults express themselves and shape how they are perceived by others.

By exploring the procedure and details candidly with children, responsible adults can prepare them for the process and the outcome. “Mommy’s body changed after she had babies,” Dr. Hustak continues. “Muscles stretched. She can’t tighten her muscles the same way so she’s going to get her muscles fixed. If you can connect this issue with what’s functional I think it makes it a lot more understandable across all age levels.”

Need for plastic surgery.

Consider a Brief ‘Vacation’ Away from Really Young Children

It’s possible with many young children that they can get scared by seeing their mom come home with bandages and bruises, or get worried by hearing their mom is undergoing a change. For these reasons, young children do not need to know the details of your surgery. If possible, try to schedule your procedure while they are away at camp, a friend’s house or a grandparent’s house. Or, consider recovering at a friend or loved one’s house. Keep in mind that surgical procedures like facelift and body contouring procedures require plenty of rest and time off from work, exercise and heavy lifting, including children. Recovering away from your little ones can help ensure you heal as safely and quickly as possible.

Sharing plastic surgery with family.

If your children will be around as you recover, you should let them know ahead of time that you are undergoing a procedure. You may decide to not tell them the nature of your procedure, but you should at least prepare them to expect change. Reassure them that although they will see bandages and bruises, you will be OK. Some patients have found that saying “Mommy has a boo boo” makes it easy for young children to understand that their mom is hurt (but not seriously) and needs to rest.

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