Conquering Your Child’s Fear of Pediatric Doctors
Whether it causes your child to cry or throw a temper tantrum, the fear of visiting the doctor can be a challenging issue for parents. To improve your child’s experience at our health centers, practicing the following strategies may help to minimize their fear of a visit to a pediatric doctor.
1. Talk to Your Child in Advance About Doctor Visits
Surprising your child with a visit to your health center may not be the best idea. Instead, talk to your child about an upcoming appointment well before that day comes. Most children do better when they have time to process upcoming stressful situations.
2. Minimize Their Fears About the Doctor
You can begin to accomplish this by educating them about what to expect by:
- Reading a book about a trip to the pediatric doctor
- Watching educational TV shows about health
- Playing together with a toy doctor’s kit
3. Answer Questions Honestly About an Upcoming Visit
Remember that answering their questions honestly will ultimately do more to reduce fears of the doctor and limit problems later. Parents who try to hide the truth will have to deal later with a child whose trust has been broken. This is a terrible position to be in.
In this context of honesty, it is also recommended that you refrain from promises that you can’t keep like swearing there will be no needles or shots. A good way to address this is simply to say, “I don’t know, but whatever happens, we want to make sure that you are healthy and we will get through it.”
4. Take Steps to Improve Your Child’s Comfort Level
The unfamiliar environment of a pediatric doctor’s office can be particularly uncomfortable for young children. There are steps you can take to reduce this:
- Make your appointment at a time when your child is not likely to be hungry or tired
- Let them bring along a favorite item, like a blanket or a stuffed animal
- Pack a book or tablet to keep them content in the waiting room
5. Project Confidence
Because children tend to take cues from their parents, staying confident and in control throughout the appointment will make an outburst less likely. Demonstrate to your child that there is nothing to worry about by calmly participating in the appointment. Through your interactions, they will be able to sense they are in a safe place.
6. Provide Positive Reinforcement for Their Efforts
After the appointment, provide positive reinforcement to let your child know how well they did at the health center.
7. Plan a Post-Appointment Treat
Not long after scheduling your appointment, start thinking about how you will reward your child for a successful visit to the health center. The promise of a small post-appointment treat has been known to give children a more positive association with the pediatric doctor.
Depending on what your child likes most, a post-appointment reward could be anything from a small toy, to a star on a chart, to a trip to the local park. Little incentives like these can help make your appointment go more smoothly and make your child more willing and calm when it is time to go to future pediatric checkups.
Many families like to use food as a reward. This should be discouraged because it helps to associate food with emotional comfort. With an epidemic of families battling unhealthy weight, getting away from this association is one step towards removing food as a source of comfort.
Request an Appointment with One of Our Pediatric Doctors
Family Health Centers’ dedicated doctors and nurses care about your children as much as you do. Your family can receive personalized pediatric care at any of our health centers in Nassau County. Regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, infants, children and adolescents can receive high-quality health services in a safe, comfortable environment.
Contact us today to request an appointment.