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Plastic Parents

May 16, 2008

Undated (NBC)--Mommy wants to get a new nose, but how do you tell the kids?

A plastic surgeon has written what is probably the first children's book addressing the touchy topic.

Critics have scalpeled the work, saying it does a better job glorifying cosmetic procedures than helping parents prepare their youngsters.

Book reviews aside, what do you say to the kids?

When Sophie Ranler decided to have a nose and chin job, she was prepared for the post-recovery bruises and bandages.

Her kids were not.

"I didn't really tell them about it, I just told them that, you know, I was going to the doctor, and I will come back a little different," she said.

It's a common strategy, and a mistake, according to cosmetic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer, who remembers his own daughter's reaction after his nose job.

"She started to cry hysterically, and said 'Daddy what happened? What's wrong?' And I probably scarred her for life by not telling her in advance what to expect," he said.

Cleveland Clinic child psychologist Vanessa Jensen says when preparing a youngster for what to expect, parents should consider a child's age, noting for example, a three-year-old's big concerns may be rooted in fear.

Older children often have more questions, but almost every child will ask what experts call "the stumper": "Why do you have to change?".

University of North Carolina psychologist Cynthia Bulik specializes in body image and eating disorders.

She advises parents to keep the focus away from appearance as much as possible.

"This is just something about myself that I'm a little uncomfortable with, and I'm doing this to make myself more comfortable," she said.

Bulik advises parents to avoid using words like pretty or ugly, skip the gory details, and keep the conversation simple.

Remind them you'll still be the same mom or dad, just with a tighter tummy or a new nose.

The conversation can be especially tricky if mom or dad chooses to "fix" a trait, like a nose or protruding ears, that runs in the family.

The bottom line is that experts say it's a parent's choice whether to come clean about plastic surgery. For more information about Dr. Salzhauer's book, click here.


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