No parent wants to see their child in distress. Unfortunately, a fear of doctors and increased anxiety seem to be an inevitable part of the medical process for many children. From routine physical exams to dental cleanings to childhood immunizations, caring for your child’s physical health means requiring them to go through medical anxiety and learn to manage their fear of doctors at some point.
The good news, however, is that there are effective strategies that parents can use to help their child manage their fear of doctors and dentists. No matter what the reasons for the visit, a trip to the doctor or dentist doesn’t have to be a trauma.
Overcoming Fear of Doctors by Preparing Your Child for the Visit
One of the most significant sources of medical anxiety for many children isn’t actually about the procedure itself. Rather, in most cases, the worst part is the fear of the unknown. This is particularly true for very young children, who as yet have not had enough experience in the medical office to truly understand that there is little to fear, that the pain associated with shots or tooth pulling, for example, is usually only minor and temporary.
Thus, for parents of young children, steps can be taken to help the child understand what will happen during the visit. Educational videos, games, and roleplaying before a dental appointment, for example, can help your little one understand what to expect at each stage of the process. This includes everything from what the instruments look like and how they might feel to what it’s going to be like to sit in the chair under the lights.
Managing Child’s Fear of Doctors By Being There During the Visit
Helping your little one manage their fear of the doctor or dentist also means preparing yourself for what is, inevitably, a fraught situation. For instance, if your child is going to need shots or bloodwork, you will need to be prepared to keep your cool even if your child loses theirs. It’s a good idea, for instance, to bring something that you can use to help distract your children, such as a favorite video or a comforting toy.
Additionally, it’s important to ensure that you’re not springing any surprises on your little one. Even a young child should be prepared, in an age-appropriate manner, for what will happen during the visit, including the possibility of a shot or blood draw. This would include talking with your child about coping strategies when anxieties mount during the visit. Showing your child deep breathing and other self-soothing exercises can help them learn to manage anxiety not just on this occasion but also into the future.
But always combine this honest preparation with reassurance that Mommy and/or Daddy will be there through the entire process and that a reward will follow, whether that be a favorite ice cream treat or a trip to the local toy store.
Enlisting Outside Help for Fear of Doctors When Needed
Sometimes, all the parental reassurance in the world will not be sufficient to ally your child’s anxieties. In such cases, enlisting the help of a child psychologist or child life specialist can be a powerful tool in helping your little one overcome their fears and worries and regain the peace of mind they deserve.
These professionals, for instance, can craft a customized treatment plan specifically suited to your child’s unique needs: This might involve some combination of short-term medication, talk therapy, and art or play therapy.
Fear of Doctors: The Takeaway
Medical anxiety often seems to be an inevitable part of childhood, but it does not have to steal your child’s joy or peace of mind. There are important strategies that parents can use to help even very young children overcome the fear of doctors, stress, and worry that often accompanies medical care.
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Sam Bowman writes about families, wellness, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
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