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Surprises like a doctor visit are a big no-no. Also, there’s no point telling your child a week in advance about the scheduled appointment. However, preparing the child a day prior is a good idea. “This afternoon we’re going to the doctor for a check-up.” or “Before going to the mall, we need to meet your doctor.”
This is the most effective tool to prepare your child to go to the doctor and reduce fear, more so when you are heading for a painful vaccination or blood test. Children love imitating others and you can use this trait to make doctor visit a game. Introduce a mock play with your family.
There are many children’s books specifically about visiting the doctor. Find an age-appropriate book to read together. My recommendations: – Going to the Doctor by Fred Rogers – The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor by Stan and Jan Berenstain
There’s something uncomfortable about compact and restricted spaces, especially for kids between 2 to 6 years of age. Once you have registered your name at the clinic and there’s a long waiting, step out and let your child loosen up a bit. This would help the child cope up with fears and anxiety. You can use this time to soothe your child and share what you plan to do or where you plan to take your child post the doctor’s visit.
Let the child express without feeling humiliated. It’s important for them to express their fears and pain. However don’t try to shun the fears by saying “Don’t worry, nothing will happen, there’s nothing to cry, you are a brave baby!”. As per my experience, too often telling our kids these things actually makes them feel worse because they think we aren’t listening to them or we don’t understand how they feel. Being allowed to cry freely will help your child relax. It will also help to prevent later nightmares and phobias that sometimes occur following trauma.
It’s not very uncommon to see parents being busy on their mobile phones while waiting at the clinic being totally ignorant of the fears the child is fighting with. Part of children’s fear of doctors is a fear of being abandoned. It is therefore very important that you stay with your child at all times. Get close to your child and talk. If you are handling another baby, and if it’s possible, take help along. This way you can give undivided attention to the child who would be seeing the doctor.
A hug, a sticker book or an ice-cream treat on the way back home- Knowing there is a reward after a difficult situation makes it easier for your child to deal with more unpleasant parts of the visit.
This is one great way to break the ice between the child and the doctor. So, the moment we step in the doctor’s chamber, we ask our kids to wish the doctor, say hello or shake hands. Basically, a pleasant interaction with the doctor would ensure the child that a health care provider is not someone to be feared.
Whenever possible, it is always helpful to give children choices, which will help to reduce feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. For example, you can let them choose which arm to have a vaccination in, or which finger to have pricked for a blood test. While administering medicine, you can ask them if they are comfortable taking in dissolved tablet or as syrup.
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