3 Steps To Make A Doctor’s Visit Easier On Children

Young children often experience fear and anxiety when faced with a trip to the doctor. The intensity of this fear is often surprising to parents, but with a few tips and a lot of patience, you can help your child manage her anxieties about a doctor’s appointment.

Provide a safe base for your child

Even if it is difficult to manage with your work schedule, make sure that you attend the appointment with your child if you know she is experiencing anxiety about it. Your presence will help her feel more at ease, and it will strengthen your relationship. You can also help your child feel more in control of the situation by providing her with options. Perhaps it would help her to feel a little braver if she could bring her favorite stuffed animal? Even letting her make small decisions like whether you should have a snack before you leave or what shirt she wears can help her to feel confident and safe. Once you are at the appointment, consider discussing your child’s fears with her doctor. Pediatricians are used to this developmentally appropriate fear, and many of them have tricks up their sleeves that can help kids forget their fears. Making small adjustments like having your child sit on your lap during the exam might make a big difference in your child’s anxiety.

Instead of dismissing fear, walk through it with them

Adults are often tempted to laugh at a child’s fears in order to show them how silly they are. This tactic rarely works, however, and often just makes children feel as though they are alone in their fear. Instead, encourage your child to talk about their fears. Then tell them the truth. Again, many parents are tempted to comfort their children by making light of their fears and telling them things like “shots don’t hurt.” While this might make your child feel better in the short-term, once she receives the shot and discovers that you lied, her fear may intensify and you may find she has lost her trust in you. Instead, be honest when addressing your child’s anxieties. Shots hurt, but only for a moment and then it’s over. You may find it helpful to check out some books from the library that explain what happens at a doctor’s visit. Additionally, play is a powerful tool that children use to work through their emotions, and you can take advantage of this by providing them with a play doctor’s kit. Take turns with your child pretending to be the doctor and the patient. You might be amazed at how much this simple activity calms your child’s fears.

Give them something positive to look forward to

You can decrease your child’s anxiety surrounding the doctor by placing the appointment in the context of your day, in which it is only one of the many activities that will happen. For example, you can talk about how the appointment will be over by lunchtime, and then you can bring a picnic to the park. Giving your child a positive experience to look forward to after a challenging situation helps them to take some of their attention off of their fear. Some parents use a special treat like this as a bargaining chip for good behavior, but it’s best to offer a positive experience even if your child is unable to control her anxiety. Chances are she will already feel badly about the experience, and a positive ending will help her reconnect to you and remember that your love is not conditional. It may also be helpful to talk about how proud she’ll feel when she’s able to act like big kid at the doctor and how proud daddy or grandma will be of her. When your child feels love and support, she will find it easier to calm her fears.

As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your child struggle with fear, but with these tools, you can help your child gain a sense of safety and peace at the doctor.

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