As we mentioned last month, now is the time to schedule and take your child to their doctor for their annual check-up. However, for some parents this annual visit makes for a yearly headache when their child cries about hating the big bad doctor.
Getting poked and prodded by a stranger - who sometimes gives them injections, no less - is admittedly not fun for a child. But there are ways that their families can help them overcome their fears and make it through their next appointment with as little stress as possible. Our top four tips for parents trying to help children through a visit are:
- Go with them if you can. It’s not always easy to take a day off of work, but having a parent with them can make all the difference to a scared child. Seeing how calm their mother or father is in a strange place can have a soothing effect on a child who feels nervous. If possible at all, we recommend taking your child to their appointment, rather than asking a relative or sitter. Younger children in particular will benefit from having you there, as they often respond well to sitting in their parents’ lap during these appointments.
- Talk to them. Sometimes, talking to a child about what to expect in an appointment is enough to help them feel better about the visit. Explaining what will happen removes some of the “newness” and “strangeness” of a visit. Whether you choose to add role play elements or not to this trick is up to you - but that can help, too! Our only word of caution would be to not make promises you can’t keep. For example, don’t promise your child “no shots” without confirming this in advance with their doctor.
- Accept and recognize their fears. As tempting as it is to tell your children not to cry, or that their visit won’t hurt them, saying things like this does little to comfort them. Instead of ignoring their concerns, recognize them; you can tell your child that you don’t enjoy your visits 100% either, but that they go by quickly and that you’ll be with them during and afterward. This is actually more likely to resonate with and comfort your child than simply telling them “don’t cry”.
- Know that security items are welcome. From pacifiers to toys, children of all ages often have a comfort item that they rely on. Don't feel like you have to take it away from a child just because you're going to a doctor. The best of us recognize this need for comfort and will be able to work around your child's favorite item.
These are a handful of our favorite tricks for making that annual appointment a little easier. If, however, they aren’t making things easier, please don’t hesitate to mention your concerns during your next appointment - we are more than happy to work with you and your child to make your wellness visits as stress-free and health-focused as possible!