Like many adults, children often fear visiting a doctor, and may or may not share their apprehensions with their parents. With some planning, however, moms and dads can help avoid potentially traumatic situations in the waiting room or at home, while teaching their child to talk about her worries in a productive way.
Children facing a doctor’s visit may be anticipating pain, separation from a parent during the visit, and the strange new doctor, in addition to the natural fear inspired by any unfamiliar situation. Parents should discuss these fears in advance, emphasizing the idea that doctor’s visits are a routine part of life.
Here are a few suggestions for preparing your child to visit the doctor:
* Explain the reason for the visit in advance. Tell her the doctor will ask questions and that it is OK to ask the doctor questions, too. If the visit is for diagnosis or treatment, explain in clear, neutral language that she is going to the doctor to help her get well.
* Tell your child what to expect. For check-ups, describe how the doctor will look at her eyes, ears, and throat with a special stick. Be honest about what procedures may be painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. Children cope much better with pain and discomfort if they know about it in advance.
* Always reassure your child that you will be there during the visit.
* Choose your words carefully when discussing or explaining medical matters. If a routine procedure such as a blood sample is carelessly described, it can become exaggerated in a child’s imagination.
* If she is old enough to understand, play-act the visit with your child. Let her write down or talk through symptoms, questions, and concerns she can then communicate to the doctor. This process can be reassuring.
* Select a doctor who you feel certain can relate to your child. Seek recommendations from friends and family, or from other doctors you trust.