How to talk about your stoma

How to talk about your stoma

Are you afraid of talking to others about your stoma? Do you not know what to say to children? Here are some stoma conversation tips.

Talking to others about your stoma can be a daunting task. It is generally helpful to have a fairly strategic approach - especially in the beginning.

How to prepare for conversation

Start by thinking what you want to get out of the conversation. Do you want to be able to talk openly with the other person or do you wish to show that nothing has really changed?

This will help you address the feelings, needs or concerns in the particular situation instead of "just" talking about your stoma - and have a much better chance to avoid getting disappointed or feeling exposed.

Write the beginning of the conversation down

This may seem silly, but often it is only the beginning of a conversation that is actually difficult. So by knowing exactly what you want to start with, you make it easier to approach it.

Have a positive attitude

How you act and how you say what you want to say will greatly influence the outcome of the conversation. So even though you may be nervous, take a deep breath and remain positive. Your listener will most likely copy this position and feel more relaxed.

A bit of well-placed humour can also help ease any awkwardness for both you and those around you, as well, and helps you control the tone of the conversation.

How to talk about your stoma

Put yourself in your listener's position and find common ground

Your listener most likely has not had the benefit of being prepared for the conversation. They may not know anything about life with a stoma, and may be concerned about how, or if, this will impact your relationship.

Sometimes people struggle with the news, and may also need to take a moment to understand the changes. Especially if your stoma surgery had not been planned. They will need time to adjust, in the same way that you do.

Talk together to understand the common worries you might have, and build on what you share to create an understanding. This is the best way to get a constructive, giving conversation.

There is more to you than your stoma

It's easy to become obsessed with talking about your stoma and focusing on it. Shifting focus away from your stoma from time to time to resume conversations about your passions, hobbies and interests will help reassure friends and family that your relationship has not changed.

You don't need to include everybody

When discussing your condition with anyone, you put yourself in a deeply vulnerable position. And with the exception of any children or grandchildren, you should have these conversations for your sake, not for others.

If someone is not giving you the opportunity to express your thoughts and feelings but rather bombarding you with advice, however well-meaning, feel free to close down the conversation.

What to say to children

What to say to children

If there are young children or grandchildren in your life, your first thought might be that they are too young to understand.

But hiding the truth from them can make them think a situation is more serious than it really is, and children tend to cope well if they are given the information in a simple and honest way.

How to tell teenagers

It is not uncommon for teenagers or even older children that they react with anger or withdrawal when confronted with a parent's health condition or surgery.

Some parents choose to tell their teenagers only key points about their surgery, but remember that in spite of their reactions, it is still important for them to hear your open and honest answers to their questions. Also keep in mind that any emotion is an expression of their love and concern for you.

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