Calming your child’s dr. fears

Very few kids love going to the doctor. But some react with anxiety or in downright terror. Fortunately, there are ways to help calm their fears.

Kids fear a trip to the doctor’s office for many reasons, from simply thinking about experiencing the pain of a shot to worrying that there might be something wrong. The next time a trip to the pediatrician is in the cards, start preparing your child in advance.

Let your child know there’s an appointment ahead as soon as you schedule it. Explain why you’re visiting the doctor in honest, age-appropriate language.

Beyond those basic steps, try out these other ways to help ease your child’s doctor fears:

  • Don’t invalidate your child’s fears. Talk with your child about why he or she doesn’t like visiting the doctor. Once you unearth the reasons, don’t invalidate them by trying to make them seem unnecessary or silly.

If shots, for example, are the reason behind your son’s fear, don’t tell him it won’t hurt. Tell him that it might, but that it will be over quickly. And reassure him that you’ll be right next to him the whole time.

  • Role play a doctor visit. Purchase a toy doctor kit and step through a pretend checkup. Show your child how the doctor might look at his ears, listen to his heart or take his blood pressure.

Have your child step on a scale to see how weight is measured. You can also go a step further and let your child step into the role of play doctor. This may make her associate fun and playtime with the doctor, rather than fear.

  • Read books and watch TV programs about the doctor. Many popular book series include a book about a trip to the doctor. The Berenstain Bears and Dora the Explorer both talk through doctor’s appointments with readers — helping them understand the parts of a visit.

A few episodes of Doc McStuffins may help, too. When your child sees how fun and approachable Doc is, this will help him have a different mindset toward the doctor.

  • Determine what brings your child comfort. Will your child feel most comfortable if she’s sitting on your lap during the checkup? Or feel better if her older brother goes first during the checkup?

Think through what will bring your child comfort and make her feel more in control. Sometimes that may mean having the doctor give her choices during the appointment (please look at my ears first, then my eyes). It may also help your child to bring along a favorite toy or stuffed animal.

  • Look for the right pediatrician. Is your child simply not comfortable with your pediatrician? You may want to try another doctor, either within the same practice or outside it.

It’s vitally important to find a doctor who your child (and you) genuinely like. It may take a few trial visits before you find the right fit, but a good relationship with your doctor is important.

Erlanger Health System offers the region’s only hospital dedicated to the unique needs of children. And Children’s Hospital at Erlanger is getting bigger and better to meet your needs. Learn more about our progress.