Adult male split between internal fear and putting on a calm and supportive face

Preparing Your Child For a Colonoscopy

Many expectant parents dream of the milestones they will celebrate as their baby grows: First steps. First words. First day of school.

First colonoscopy is not on that list. But some of us, myself included, must face that reality. Recently, my son had to have an MRI for a non-Crohn's-related reason, and it brought back memories of all the diagnostic tests he had to have that were because of his Crohn's: colonoscopies, MREs, X-ray series, and the like.

These were not fun memories, obviously, but it did get me thinking about what strategies helped get us through those difficult times. Perhaps they can work for your family, too.

Pediatric colonoscopy and Crohn's testing: tips for preparing your child

Be honest

I have always been upfront about anything to do with my son's Crohn's disease, which is now in remission. I told him why he was getting a certain test, what it entailed, and what information it would provide that would help him manage his illness. The last point was key. While the process may not be fun, the outcome would ensure that my son was getting the care he needed to live his life to the fullest.

This just-the-facts approach, avoiding overly dramatic language or images, has worked well for us. And I think we all do better when we know what to expect rather than letting our imaginations run wild, which is likely to ramp up anxiety.

Be in control

I have a vivid memory of standing in the aisle of our local CVS the day before my son's first colonoscopy and sobbing. I couldn't believe my son was so sick, that he was weak from sudden extreme weight loss and still had to go through a grueling colonoscopy prep. I felt guilty, confused – he didn't yet have a diagnosis – and terrified.

Those feelings are OK – unavoidable, really. What's not OK is sharing those feelings with your child. When overwhelmed, call a friend or family member, making sure that your kid is out of earshot. Post your worst fears on a Facebook group for parents of kids with IBD. Meditate. Breathe. Eat a piece of chocolate – or 7. I even set a timer and allowed myself to doom scroll for 5 minutes to get those worst-case scenarios out of my head. But in front of my son, I put on a brave face. You don't have to be falsely cheery, but steady on. Your child will look to you as their guide through this.

Be prepared

When my son was scheduled for his first magnetic resonance enterography (MRE), I called the imaging center and asked if he could come and look at the machine so he wouldn't be overwhelmed the day of the test. They were very accommodating, and I think seeing the machine and meeting the staff went a long way toward easing his mind.

For his colonoscopy prep, I made sure I had everything ready to go: Jell-O and magnesium citrate cooled; hard candies procured; favorite books and DVDs at hand; his favorite sweats and comfy throw freshly washed. I may have been roiling inside, but as far as he knew, I was confident and ready to go. You know your child and what will make them comfortable, but projecting competence sets a positive tone.

Be ready for what's next

When my son and I sat on our couch as he drank his colonoscopy prep, we made plans to go to the park in the next few days and to the diner for gluten-free pancakes the following week. As we sat in the waiting room at the imaging center, we talked about an upcoming school trip and how he couldn't wait to go to camp that summer. We did this each time he faced a challenge, and still do, because there are always challenges, health-related or otherwise. I want him to know he can overcome these obstacles, and that there's always something positive to look forward to.

And I try to tell myself the same thing. That whether my son remains in complete remission or has a flare down the road, we will get through it together.

I hope some of this has been helpful. How do you prepare your child – or yourself – for upcoming procedures?

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