If you’ve ever been that parent with a screaming child in the waiting room, you’re not alone. Anxiety and fear about healthcare settings can lead to negative behaviors like tantrums and refusal. Your child may be motivated by fear of pain from shots or other procedures, worry about the unknown or a sense of intimidation when surrounded by unfamiliar adults. There are gentle steps you can take to help get your child ready and reduce stress leading up to doctors’ visits. Building a solid relationship with your pediatrician is a valuable step in reassuring your child and making checkups and other visits a positive experience.
- Set the stage for positive interactions in your child’s early years by building a relationship with your pediatrician. Ask questions and establish a dialogue with your child’s doctor. Take advantage of low-key well-visits to engage your child, discuss what happens in the office and create a positive feeling about visiting the pediatrician.
- Give your child advance notice when a visit is coming up, but don’t make too big a deal of it. Let them know about checkups a few days in advance. Explain why we need well-visits and what you expect to happen before each visit. If your child is sick, explain why they need to go to the doctor and how their provider can help.
- Honesty is the best policy. Be upfront with your child when they need an immunization that requires a shot. Let them know shots might hurt a bit but reassure them that they won’t feel pain for long. Don’t create confusion by telling them they won’t be getting a shot if they have an immunization scheduled. Avoid dismissing their fears or telling them not to cry.
- Pediatricians and staff enjoy talking and interacting with young patients. Give your child’s doctor a heads-up if your child is experiencing anxiety, and they can add extra communication to visits. Many young children respond well when the doctor explains what they are doing and why.
- Turn to children’s books dealing with doctors and healthcare. Find episodes of favorite children’s shows with positive portrayals of doctor visits. From classics like “Curious George Goes to the Hospital” and “The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor” to more contemporary favorites, children’s literature gently provides a wealth of information. The beloved “Doc McStuffins” series about a little girl who can fix her stuffed toys is a great way to generate warm and fuzzy feelings about the doctor.
- Let them bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy for comfort.
- Role-play different situations that might come up, tackling your child’s concerns with honesty and positivity.
Be a good role model. Don’t let your own negative feelings impact your dialogue with your child. Discuss your own doctor’s appointments positively and remind them that everyone needs checkups and well-visits to stay healthy.
How Can My Pediatrician Help My Child Prepare for Visits?
A parent’s patience and reassurance with anxious children are invaluable. Building a solid relationship with your pediatrician and staff is another essential element in helping kids prepare for healthcare visits in a positive way. At Loudoun Pediatric Associates, we focus on creating relationships with children and families and approaching every patient with compassion. If your child experiences anxiety, let us know. We understand that sometimes there will be tears. However, after many years of serving the Loudoun community, we have tried-and-true strategies to help anxious patients of all ages. We can also offer additional tips based on your child’s unique situation and needs.