Almost every parent has experienced the “we’re going to the doctor” meltdown at some point. Children often have fears associated with medical situations such as separation from their parent, anticipated pain, or simply fear of the unknown. This creates stress not only for the child, but also for the parent or guardian. Don’t worry, preparing your child beforehand can help make check-ups smoother.
Read through the four simple tips below to create a better experience the next time your child visits their physician’s office.
1. Get details prior to the visit
Before the visit, speak with your child’s physician or a nurse on staff. Ask questions. Will my child receive any shots or require bloodwork? What types of medical equipment will be used? Which healthcare practitioners will be part of the appointment? You can also inquire about what to bring along, such as personal comfort items. Doctors today are often pressured to see more patients in less time, so get as much information as possible in advance to make the most of the visit.
2. Timing is everything
Part of preparing your child for a physician visit is giving notice of an upcoming appointment so it’s not a surprise. Once a child knows about their visit to the doctor, fear or anxiety can start to set in; therefore you don’t want to give them too much time to overthink it. Anytime from the morning of through 1-2 days’ notice should be appropriate. It’s also important to stress that all kids go to the doctor, even when they are healthy. Mentioning that you also get annual checkups can calm fears your child may have and help them understand that doctor visits do not mean something is wrong.
3. The power of play
It’s important to be honest with your child and share information in an appropriate way. A tool that can be helpful is medical play. Children often learn about their world through play, so this can be a non-threatening way to introduce people they may meet, such as doctors or nurses, and items they might encounter such as a stethoscope. You can utilize common things such as dolls and pretend medical equipment to simulate a doctor’s visit at home. This will help your child understand what to expect and allow them time to ask questions.
4. Utilize distraction tools
One of the most stressful parts of a doctor’s visit can be the waiting. Distraction is a trusted technique for reducing patient anxiety. While pediatric offices do their best to make the environment friendly, it can be helpful to bring something comforting from home such as a favorite toy or stuffed animal. Giving the child an activity such as reading or coloring can also be a great distraction from the sights and sounds happening around them.
Remember, while any sort of medical procedure can be intimidating for children, if you prepare your child they will better understand that doctors and nurses are there to help, not hurt them. Taking the time to prepare will make future visits easier for your child and less stressful for you.
Need a distraction tool for your child’s next doctor visit? Our penguin friend Chilly can help! Download our free coloring book to take along to your next appointment.