As a nurse, I deal with scared children every day. Even when I say hello to our pedia patients during my rounds or give oral medications, and especially when I do painful skin tests or insert an IV, they cry their hearts out.
Some kids become afraid or upset from just seeing a doctor or nurse’s white uniform. As a professional, I have to continue to give medical care. As a mom, I can empathize with their worried parents. My own kids get stressed before their doctor’s appointment, especially when they know that they’ll be getting a vaccine. They have thrown tantrums inside the elevator or right in front of their clinic.
Why do children develop doctor/dentist phobia?
In an article for PsychCentral, Dr. Lawrence Kutner Ph.D – author of several parenting books, and co-director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health – says it’s normal for toddlers and preschoolers to become anxious around doctors or dentists.
- They’re more aware of their bodies, and their overactive imaginations can make them afraid of what will happen.
- They can feel your anxiety or be stressed by hearing other kids cry.
- They’re stressed out by the unfamiliar clinic or hospital environment.
“It’s also important to remember that young children don’t have the sense of perspective and life experiences that adults have. While a 35-year-old will view having her teeth cleaned or her blood pressure taken as trivial events, their strange sounds and sensations may frighten a five-year-old,” says Dr. Kutner.
However, we can help our kids overcome their fear of doctors, dentists and other people from the medical field. Here are some of the tips or techniques that I can share, based on my experiences.
I bought my kids a doctor’s play set with a stethoscope, thermometer and syringe. First, I would play as the doctor: listening to their heartbeat while making them inhale and exhale, inserting a thermometer in their armpits. Then we would reverse roles, and I would let them use the toy syringe to give me a shot on my arm. Pretend play helps doctor’s visits feel less unfamiliar and scary.
Keep them busy
During "injection time", I try to make them do something like sing or count to ten, just to take their attention off the pain.
After every check-up, even if they didn’t get an injection, say something like “Good job!” or “Well done!” This may boost their confidence so they are less anxious the next time they visit the doctor or dentist.
Give them a reward
This is very effective. I talk to them that they need to be a good boy / good girl during their check-up, so that afterwards we can play at an arcade, watch a movie, or buy their favorite food.
Always be there
I always want to accompany my kids to the doctor or dentist, because even just a simple hug or kiss, or letting them sit on my lap, can make my children feel secure. Also, showing that you trust the doctor will make them feel at ease.
Never make false promises
Injections, plus the medications inside those syringes, hurt – period. Never lie and say it won’t hurt, because they won’t trust you the next time you visit the doctor. You can say, “It will only hurt for a short time.”
Visit the doctor at the right time
As much as possible, schedule your appointment when the clinic isn’t too crowded, and avoid the time of day when your kids usually eat or take a nap. If they are hungry or sleepy and feel pain from the vaccine, there will indeed be chaos.
There are just some of the tips that I have used with my kids whenever we go to their pediatrician. Some of these might work for you, but every child is different! Were you able to try these techniques, or do you have your own style and approach? Leave a comment and share your own experiences of helping your child overcome doctor/dentist fears.
About The Writer
Yvonne Claire M. Bertoldo is the mom behind www.whatyvonneloves.com, where she shares everything she loves – newly discovered restaurants, travel experiences, makeup reviews, and exciting events. She is a single mom to an 8-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy. A registered nurse, she is currently working at Maternity and Children Hospital in Najran, Saudi Arabia. In her free time, she enjoys karaoke, watching Netflix, and going to the arcade with her kids.