Helping Your Kids Cope with Doctor Fears

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As mamas, we can kiss scraped knees, bandage minor cuts, give extra cuddles and run for the iced boo boo pack for owies. But, helping your kids cope with doctor anxiety?  That can be a toughie.

When a trip to your favorite pediatrician is in order (sometimes I swear I need a “frequent visit” card punch) it can cause stress for everyone involved. Does anybody else’s kids freak out when you mention a doctor’s visit?  Well, mine do.

Recently, I was sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class lounge chatting with the other moms, and this very topic came up.  Turns out, each one of our girls had different fears about the doctor and all of us shared what worked.

It was all such great advice…girlfriend to girlfriend, mom to mom…that I thought I’d compile it and share with all of you!  So, in no particular order, here’s our two cents. I very much hope you find these tips handy in helping your kids cope with doctor anxiety.

Getting Them TO the Doctor…

1. We ALL agreed that honesty was the best policy (on a need-to-know-basis). If you know your little one is scared of the doctor and you tell them you’re going someplace else to get them in the car, then show-up in the doctor’s parking lot, you’ve lost credibility…and future doctor’s visits will be REALLY unpleasant.

2. On that note, we also all agreed that there was no reason to fuel any unnecessary anxiety or fears by telling them they were going to the doctor next week/tomorrow/etc. (for any well checks), or even, we’re going after lunch/nap/etc.  This gives their little minds time to worry and fret…and get really worked up.

3. One mom said she kept their location vague, and when they pulled into the parking lot and her daughter recognized it (because, of COURSE, most children know the doctor’s parking lot), she calmly told her that they were going in to tell her doctor hello and let them know how [insert child’s name] was doing. She told her daughter she could tell the doctor how well she was doing in school, sports, milestones, how much she’s grown, etc.  This made it a little less scary than saying “Dr. so-and-so is going to give you a check-up!”  Obviously, this will only work for planned, well exams or visits.  Not lying, but not explicitly saying “check-up!” Needles!  Shots!

Needles, Shots, Pokes, Oh My!

4. Speaking of shots, one mom handles them this way.  When her daughter asks if she is going to get one (in advance of the appointment), and says how scared she is of needles, the mom will say validate her fear (“I know needles can be scary, honey.  But, they give your body medicine sometimes when you need it.”), and then says they can talk to the doctor together about whether she will need a shot that day.

Yes, there may be a meltdown at the doctor’s office…it may be unavoidable…but we agreed that listening to your child’s fear and saying that you would talk to the doctor together helped advance fear and fretting.

5. If you know your child is due for shots, ask if they have a numbing spray. One mama told her pediatrician that her little girl was terrified of needles and they gave her a numbing spray first to help with any sting or poke. Every office is different, but it’s worth an ask!

Make it a Game!

6.  Bring a favorite doll, train, car, stuffed animal, etc. with you to also get “examined.”  Have the doctor do anything to the toy first, before your kiddo – most likely, they’ll play along!

7.  If you haven’t heard of Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior yet, let me introduce you to your new best doctor friend.  By watching this show, and playing “clinic” at home with doctoring their toys, my kids have made major progress with doctor fears!  Check it out!  I actually turned our front hall closet into a “clinic” – of course, my babies are still pretty little, so a closet is the perfect size for them to pretend for a doctor’s office.

More Advice…

8.  Talk about the doctor at home when they aren’t sick or hurt.  Tell them how wonderful it is to be a doctor, how they help people, times when you went to the doctor and were scared…but didn’t need to be, because they made mommy all better!  Slipping these casual little conversations could help fighting fears in the long run.

9. If all else fails, bribe.  Okay, yes.  Sometimes I am THAT mom who will promise a lollipop or big sticker or Target dollar spot item if they are extra brave.  I figure it’s a decent investment!

Spill it, mamas!  What do you do to calm little minds and big fears about the doctor?  Share in the comments below!

1 Comments

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  1. 1
    Jen says:

    Totally agree with these great tips!

    Regarding the shots, if my daughter asks me if she is going to get one, I tell her, “I don’t know, we will talk to the doctor about it.” Same as above. Way better than telling her “yes” in advance and having her worry about it, and also better than saying “no”, and feeling betrayed.
    This happened once, I told her “no” because I truly didn’t think she was due for shots, but turned out she was and she FREAKED out. Now I just say “I don’t know.” and it’s way better for everyone!
    Love all these helpful tips.

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