No child (or adult) would be thrilled to go to the doctor. However, some kids are just petrified with the thought of a doctor’s appointment. This is not unusual as kids are hard-wired not to trust an unfamiliar person. This aversion intensifies with the chance that they might get scary treatments like an injection.
This fear is not just for the little kids who are scared of shots. Even pre-teens who need to visit the dermatologist for a checkup get anxious about shots and other possible painful treatments. Regardless of their age or the severity of the treatment, your kid will need a little confidence boost. Here’s how you can help your child feel at ease as you go through a doctor’s appointment.
Set their expectations by being clear
Many children experience anxiety before going to the doctor because they do not know what to expect. Because they are unaware of what will happen, they will think that the worst will happen to them.
However, most visits to the doctor are only for routine checkups and not full-blown treatments. If this is true with your family’s situation, set the record straight with your child. When your child knows what will happen, you are helping them manage their expectations and anxiety.
For toddlers, you can help them ease up with a play doctor kit. You can act like a doctor and demonstrate how doctors do check-ups. Avoid using vague statements like “routine checkup,” oral prophylaxis, or something that they do not understand right away. You can help them by explaining steps in a way that they can understand. You can say, “Your doctor will listen to your breathing and heartbeat with a stethoscope,” or “The dentist will use a tool to see the insides of your mouth.”
Explain the process in a positive tone
While it is best that you set the record straight with your child, avoid overturning them about the appointment. Being too explicit can lead them to worry, too. You can also express your confidence in their doctor and say things like, “Your doctor will help you stay healthy.”
What if your child is getting an injection? It is best to be honest with them. Aside from harboring negative feelings towards their doctor, they might also lose their trust in you. You can explain that they’ll feel a little poke but that this will only last for a few seconds. Assure your child that you will be with them the whole time.
Schedule your visit at the right time
Your child might feel irritable or cranky when you schedule the visit during their nap or meal times. Make sure that your child is well-rested and fed before the visit. You can also bring small toys or coloring books so they’ll have something to do while you wait.
Validate their feelings
Usually, parents downplay their kids’ feelings of anxiety. Instead, anxiety can be handled by validating children’s feelings. You can assure your child by telling them that you understand how they feel. You can also tell them about your good experiences with your doctor so that they can feel better and at ease.
You can also encourage your child to talk to you about why they are nervous. Allow them to ask questions about the process, too. If they are having difficulty communicating their worries, try asking questions to help them process their feelings. Offer them something to look forward to after the session. You can also reinforce their compliance by giving them a treat after the visit.
Your toddler might feel scared when they’re lying down with the pediatrician examining their body. You can make them feel more comfortable by being close to them. Ask the doctor if the child can sit on your lap. You can also hold your child’s hand when they are feeling scared and stressed.
What if the anxiety means more?
Some kids recover well after the trip to the doctor. Usually, when children get candy or a band-aid after a shot, they feel better and act as if nothing happened.
However, some children have persistent or severe anxiety. Other children feel the constant need to visit their doctor to see if they or a family member is ill, or others worry about the next check-up even if this has not yet been scheduled. If you feel that your child’s doctor’s anxiety is affecting their ability to stay at the moment, you might want to have them checked by a professional.