10 Ways to Calm Your Child's Fear of the Doctor
It's no wonder that small children sometimes become frightened when visiting the doctor's office. After all, there are plenty of adults out there who are anxious about visiting the doctor, too. Here are 10 ways to calm your child's fear of the doctor.
Take your child to your appointments
Once your child realizes that even big people have to go to the doctor, she won’t feel so singled out. Plus, she’ll get to see what to expect from a visit and may consequently feel better next time she has to pay a visit to her own doctor’s office.
Accentuate the positive
Your child can sense when you’re nervous and anxious, so try to be relaxed and confident. If you remain calm and collected, chances are greater that he will, too. Keep a positive tone when you are talking about the doctor’s office and act excited about his visit.
Educate your child
Look for books and DVDs about doctors and pediatric checkups. This way your child can identify with other children that go through the same feelings. Don’t get too technical, simply explain that every child has to go to the doctor and point out that the doctor is a nice person who keeps kids healthy and safe.
Talk about it
Casually discuss the doctor, the doctor’s office, and the nurses. Comment on how nice the staff is, how they have such great books and toys in the waiting room, and how they give out stickers, a lollipop, or a surprise after a visit.
Be truthful about what is happening. Tell your child that something might hurt a little. “The doctor is going to give you a shot now and you will feel a pinch, but afterwards it will feel better.”
Keep it together
Don’t get upset or impatient with your child. Remember that your child is frightened and uncertain. Tell her that it’s OK to cry, but that it is important to sit still for the doctor, or the exam will take even longer.
Plan a post-visit outing
Give your child something to look forward to after the visit. Plan a trip to the playground, an outing to the ice cream parlor, or a visit with one of your child’s friends as a fun follow-up to a trip to the pediatrician.
Make your child comfortable
Bring along a comfort item such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Let your child, if she’s old enough, choose what she’ll wear on her doctor’s visit. Even suggest bringing something that she can show to or share with her doctor (her favorite book, a flower from your garden, and so on).
Role playing can do wonders for an anxious toddler. Buy a toy doctor’s kit and encourage your child to practice playing doctor on his stuffed animals or you. Knowing how things work will help your child feel more comfortable during the exam.
Talk to your pediatrician
Discuss your child’s fears and how to alleviate them with your pediatrician. A good pediatrician should be understanding of your situation (that’s her job—to treat and work with children!). If your doctor doesn’t show the level of concern that you would expect or is not sensitive to your child’s needs at the next visit, it may be time to think about changing physicians.
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