Is your child scared of the doctor or dentist? Does it feel like a battle every time they have an appointment?
If you’re like most parents, you have tried to show them they don’t need to be scared and you’ve tried to help them understand the doctor and dentist are there to help.
Sometimes parents are able to pinpoint a specific situation that occurred that may have caused the fear and other times they are at a loss for why their child is expressing fear.
Use the following five steps to learn more about your child’s fears and how to help them have positive medical experiences.
Step 1: Think back to your child’s previous medical experiences. Is there anything that stands out in your mind that could be causing their fear?
Step 2: If your child is old enough to express their thoughts and feelings, ask them to tell you about why they don’t like to go to the doctor or dentist. Try to see their thoughts and feelings through their eyes and perspective; rather than an adult perspective.
Step 3: Listen to their fears and concerns and validate them, by saying things like “that must have been hard for you” or “it sounds like you didn’t like that”. Try not to reassure them there is nothing to fear right away, first hear the child out, validate their feelings, then develop a plan and reassure them. Think of it this way, when you express a concern to someone and they immediately tell you “you’ll be fine” or “don’t worry”, that doesn’t comfort you, because you still feel the way you feel. Kids and teens feel the same way!
Step 4: Come up with a plan and get creative. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
Encourage medical play.
·Buy a medical play kit; as you watch your child play with it, see if you can observe any of their fears or misunderstandings through their play.
·After observing for a while, participate in the medical play with your child, then gently guide and correct any misconceptions and fears they express.
·You can even use items from home to play with such as, toothbrushes, dolls, stuffed animals, and safe medical items like a thermometer, gauze, or Band-Aids.
Take a tour or arrange a visit to the doctor or dentist when your child doesn’t have an appointment.
· This way they are just exploring the place and not having anything done to them.
· If your child is younger, they could play in the waiting room for a couple minutes, walk with you to say hi to the doctor, dentist, or other staff they will interact with during their visit.
· If they are older, they can say hi to the doctor and learn about what to expect when they come in for their appointment.
· Teens can also benefit taking tours and learning about what to expect before their appointment.
Step 5: Make it a fun and positive experience, so your child begins to learn and relate more to the positive experiences over time, and focus less on negative feelings or experiences they previously had. Bring toys and activities with you to help pass the time, consider rewarding your child with a prize for good behavior or being brave, and encourage them to bring favorite comfort items like a blanket or a stuffed animal.
You may be surprised just how big of a difference these tips can make in how your child responds to going to the doctor or dentist! Just remember to stay calm, be patient, and know you can help your child and make a positive difference in their relationship with their doctor and dentist.