The mere mention of a visit to the doctor’s office fills many people with dread. But if you think adults have it bad, wait until you ask a child if they want to spend their Saturday afternoon at the clinic. Children often associate hospitals and people in white coats with sickness, which could explain their reluctance. You need to find a way to change your child’s perception of doctors.
Not all children are afraid of doctors, however. Some remain calm, while for others, a quick visit for a booster shot can quickly devolve into a major meltdown. The younger the child, the more likely it is for them to fear the doctor. If left unchecked, this could affect their long-term health and well-being. The last thing you need is your child’s teeth falling out because they’re too scared to see their pediatric dentist.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ensure a smooth visit.
Fear is often caused by uncertainty. For children with a fear of the doctor, explaining what will happen can alleviate some of their fears. If your child is left in the dark about a simple procedure, they’re free to imagine something worse that’s far from the truth. Associations of hospitals with sickness and death aren’t very helpful either. You might need to clarify that a doctor’s visit doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sick.
You also need to be transparent about the purpose of the visit. If your child isn’t expecting a shot and suddenly see a needle, they’re more likely to act out and get upset. It’s best to be honest with them, even if they’re reluctant at first. The more time they have to prepare, the fewer the hiccups.
When we see our child in distress, it can be tempting to say something reassuring, even if you yourself don’t know all the facts. But in cases like this, it’s more helpful to the child if you’re honest, even if you have to admit your ignorance.
If your child asks a question about the visit and you don’t know the answer, it’s best to deflect and say, “The doctor will tell us everything we need to know when we get there.” That way, your child won’t feel deceived if things don’t happen as expected.
Mirror their feelings
One common reaction to displays of anxiety is reassurance. When we see someone distressed or unease, our usual go-to reply is, “Everything is going to be okay.” While you think you’re being helpful, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Instead of trying to soothe their fears, try mirroring and acknowledging their feelings.
For instance, if your child is worried about an upcoming visit to the doctor’s clinic, say something like, “I know. It sucks. I completely understand why you feel that way.” Afterward, direct the conversation to why the visit is necessary.
Let the child process their feelings
One common mistake that many parents make is talking over the child. Many of us think that we just need to constantly reassure them to make their anxieties go away. But, by dominating the conversation, you’ve robbed the child of the space they need to voice out their concerns. Sometimes, it’s best to take the backseat and let your child talk.
Take this opportunity to ask them if they have any concerns. Oftentimes, children don’t know how to explain their inner thoughts. Help your child work through their feelings so you can pinpoint their specific fears and triggers. Once you’ve identified the things that fuel their fear and anxiety, you can address the problem head-on.
Children often mirror what their parents feel. If you’re nervous about the visit, then your negative energy will rub off on your child. It’s normal to be anxious, but you need to stay strong and calm around your child. If you have specific questions or concerns, ask the doctor separately. For instance, you can let the nurse or receptionist know that you’d like to talk to the doctor before the appointment.
A final word
These things will help you teach your child how to be strong and calm when faced with stressful situations. Children need to understand that going to the doctor is an essential component of their health and wellness. Doctors are there to help them, and if they put on a brave face, they’ll be better off for it.
Meta title: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for a Doctor’s Visit
Meta desc: A trip to your child’s doctor doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some pointers for preparing your child for a medical checkup.