It is not uncommon for children to feel anxious about a trip to the dentist or pediatrician. However, parents can take an active role in combatting these fears by being open, communicative, and supportive as their children face this unfamiliar environment. Here are several methods you can use to help your child get over their fear of the doctor:
Introduce them to the doctor
It is no secret that children despise being handled and prodded by total strangers, so it would be wise for you to introduce them to the doctor before the appointment begins. This can also be done by bringing your younger child to your older child’s appointments or, if you visit a family doctor, to your own. This will show your child that you trust the doctor and are comfortable in the office. If they see that you or their siblings are handling the environment well, they will feel more inclined to do so in the future.
If your child seems anxious about their next appointment, try normalizing the process by introducing medical-themed toys at home. Purchase a doctor’s coat or a toy set that includes items you would normally find in a doctor’s office, including a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and so on. By letting your child familiarize themselves with these items at home, they will feel more comfortable around them during their appointment.
Tell them what to expect
When going into the doctor’s office, many children may feel anxious because they are unsure of what is going to happen to them. However, you can prevent this reaction by explaining what will happen during the appointment in great detail — for example, tell them that the stethoscope is going to feel cold, or that they will have to stand on a scale alone. If possible, call ahead to find out if your child’s next appointment will involve shots — that way, you can adequately prepare them for every aspect of the experience.
The worst thing a parent can do is tell their child that their shot will not hurt when, obviously, it will. Instead of telling this easy fib, try explaining to your child that while the shot will hurt, the pain will not last and getting the shot will help them stay healthy and strong. By giving the process a rhyme and a reason, your child will be less likely to react adversely to the idea of being poked with a needle.
Before you even leave for your child’s appointment, express your confidence in them and encourage them to be brave during their visit — especially if it is one that involves shots. Speak positively about seeing the doctor, as many children imitate their parents’ attitudes toward unpleasant experiences. Even if your child cannot control his or her anxiety for the duration of the appointment, make sure to praise them for the good things they did do, then encourage them to behave even better next time.