How Do I Calm My Child Down Before Visiting the Doctor?

kidsLet’s face it; a trip to the doctor’s office is not every kid’s activity of choice. It helps when the child is familiar with the staff and doctors they’re about to visit. It also makes a difference when the pediatrician’s office itself is warm and friendly. But even that doesn’t change the fact that some children have a difficult time going to the doctor, even for something as simple as a routine check-up.

As a parent or guardian, you’ve probably asked yourself how can you make this procedure run a little more smoothly. Thankfully, there are practical ways to go about it. Here are six practical ways to ease the pain of your child’s next visit to the pediatrician.

1. Be Honest with Her, and Listen to Her Concerns

When talking to your child about the upcoming doctor’s appointment—particularly if it includes the dreaded shot—try not to tell him things like “it won’t hurt,”or “don’t be scared,”or that he won’t actually be getting a shot this time. The possibility of an unpleasant moment or two may cause short-term worry, but painting too rosy a picture (or simply lying to your child about the doctor’s visit) may cause him to lose trust in you. To a large degree, being honest reduces your child’s anxiety because he trusts you and knows what to expect.

In fact, many parents get good results by admitting to the child that the experience won’t be very fun, but that it will be over quickly. It will only hurt a little, and you’ll be there with him the whole time. Honesty builds trust, which in turn reduces anxiety.

2. Put Her in Control with Small Choices

One of the reasons the doctor’s office is so unnerving for kids is that feel like they don’t have any control of the situation. To give some control back to your child, offer her small choices. For example, ask her which knee she’d like the doctor to tap first, or whether she’d like to sit on your lap or on the table.

This act may seem insignificant, but to a child, being afforded a small amount of power can make a real difference in the perception of the situation. This leads to a more relaxed and productive visit with the doctor.

3. Role-Play Beforehand

Another way to reduce the uncertainty about your child’s appointment is by practicing ahead of time! Nothing breaks tension like familiarity. Pick up a toy medical kit with stethoscopes and plastic syringes, to get your child familiar with the instruments they’ll be seeing. Play to their curiosity. Show the child how the doctor might check his blood pressure, listen to his heartbeat, or even give him a shot. Have the child practice on you or their stuffed animals. Some parents have even brought this ‘practice kit’and a stuffed animal with them to an appointment, allowing the nervous child to“work”alongside the doctor.

4. Read Books

There are several great children’s books about going to the doctor. They’ve been written specifically for your child’s peace of mind, and can be a great help in those tense hours before a trip to the pediatrician. Some of our favorites include:

• The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor
• Say Ahh!
• Dora Goes to the Doctor
• Nicky Goes to the Doctor

5. Offer a Reward

Giving your child something to look forward to can give them a valuable boost of confidence and resolve—and you don’t have to wait until after the appointment, either. Try bringing some goodies to open when you get to the doctor’s office (stickers, toys or favorite snacks). After the appointment, take your child to the park or a movie. Create positive associations with the doctor’s office, and the child is bound to remember them for future visits.

6. Praise your Child for a Job Well-Done

Even if your child wasn’t as calm as you’d hoped, he still made it through the appointment successfully. Verbal recognition of this will make him feel good about the experience. Remind him of positive things that happened, like getting to play with a cool toy, or a funny joke the nurse told him. Instilling a strong sense of accomplishment immediately after you visit will come in handy when the next appointment rolls around!

Thanks for reading!

We hope this information has given you some practical ideas for making your child’s visit to the pediatrician a positive, rewarding experience for you both. If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the box below.