Dreading the Doctor

Children who don’t like going to the doctor is a very common problem for parents. Here's how to handle it

Cherylyn Feierabend
5-minute read
Episode #33

I’ve both heard and read about children who don’t like going to the doctor. This appears to be a very common problem for parents. When choosing the topics I talk about each week, I often try to share some type of experience I’ve had with my own children. We’ve been to the doctor recently and more often than I would have liked. I’m the only one, it seems, that isn’t a huge fan of the doctor visits. My son just loves the attention. He looks adoringly at all of the doctors and nurses and gives them his biggest smile. My daughter seems to enjoy the doctor too much. She actually asks me to take her to see the doctor because she has a bump, bruise, tummy ache, or any other type of minimal malady that I could probably fix with a band-aid or a magical-mommy-kiss. I took her to get some immunizations recently and after she was given her shots she actually said, “Thank you. I feel better.” My kids get excited to go to the doctor’s office, but I have a feeling they won’t feel this way forever. I want to be prepared for when my children decide they don’t like the doctor anymore. Since this is such a common fear, I was able to obtain some helpful tips from my fellow moms.

The first step you can take as parent to help ease your child’s mind about the visiting the doctor can be done before the child is born. Choose your doctor’s office wisely. When you are interviewing your new pediatrician or family doctor, take in your surroundings. An office with warm, friendly staff is going to be much more inviting than a room full of cold, methodical people. Doctors who take the time to talk to the children and who take the time to listen and pay attention will help to make a child more comfortable. Doctors who are rushed and matter-of-fact or who only talk to the parent can appear scary or stern to a child. Be sure to check out the waiting room. If the office has a play area in the waiting room, this is a big plus. It can keep the kids occupied while you wait and it can help them relax if they are scared. Most offices that provide pediatric services provide some form of post-visit treat for the kids. If they can provide a toy or sticker on the way out, it will give your child something to look forward to.

Now, like I said at the beginning of this episode, I am not a big fan of going to the doctor for myself. I have no problem taking the kids, but I’m admittedly stubborn when it comes making my own appointments. I’ve definitely had to change my behavior in order to be a good role model for my kids. Since almost all doctor appointments are during the day, I usually have the kids with me when I go to my own appointments. This is a great opportunity to show the kids that going to the doctor isn’t a bad thing. Even when the children are not going with you, it’s a good time to tell them that Mommy is going to the doctor. You can tell them, “The doctor takes good care of Mommy. He can help Mommy to feel better.”

My next tip is to be honest. I believe it’s very important to tell you kids exactly what is going to happen, but only if you know it’s going to happen. There’s no point in telling your child that he’s going to get a shot or medicine if you don’t know for certain. If you do know, then be honest when your child asks. If you tell your child something to convince him to go to the doctor and he finds out later that you weren’t being honest, he’s definitely not going to trust you next time. It’s better to tell him exactly what to expect or at least what you know he can expect. Let him know that you understand and respect his fears, but also let him know that his health is very important and the doctor is going to help keep him healthy.

If you have more than one child, it may be helpful to take children to their appointments separately. Having more than one child to take care of during appointments, may make it difficult to give your full attention to the child who needs it most. Although, it could also be helpful for the younger siblings to observe their older brothers and sisters being brave little patients, it could also backfire. If your seven year old suddenly has burst of fear in the presence of her three year old sister, this could make the three year old think twice about her own bravery. If you do have to bring an extra child, be sure to bring extra distractions to keep her busy so you can focus on the patient as much as possible.

[[AdMiddle]When your child is getting shots or experiencing anything he considers unpleasant, try to distract and comfort him. My kids love to sing songs with me while they are getting shots. I have a bad habit of singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when I’m put on the spot to sing something right away. I’m trying to change it up because I don’t want my children to associate the song with getting shots. If your child has a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal, let him bring it along for comfort. You could also make or buy your child a special item just for doctor visits. An age appropriate toy doctor kit can give a kid a great boost in courage. Let your child be your doctor before his own appointment. Take turns being patient and doctor before the real thing so that your child can better understand both points of view. He might even want to bring his doctor kit along on his appointment so he can give you a check-up while he’s waiting to see the real doctor.

Finally, be sure to reward your child’s bravery. Let him know how proud you with stickers or a small prize and several hugs and kisses!

That’s it for now. Hope you enjoyed listening. I’d love to hear from you.

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This is your friend the Mighty Mommy wishing you happy and fun parenting!

Music – “Golly Gee” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 2.0" http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/"