When Your Child Is Afraid To See The Doctor
May 16, 2019
Many kids are anxious about going to the doctor, and a routine visit can turn into a major meltdown.
A big part of that fear is that kids don’t know what to expect. They’re afraid of shots (who isn’t?), and their imagination runs wild thinking everything is going to hurt.
According to child psychologists, parents can help their kids manage their anxiety by explaining how the doctor’s appointment will go. The more detailed the explanation, the less anxious the child will be.
Talk to your Child
Ask your child why they are nervous and give them a chance to share their worries. If your child says, “I’m scared,” help them figure out exactly what it is that’s making them feel uneasy.
If they can’t pinpoint why they’re afraid, start walking them through the process and ask them to stop you when something sounds scary.
Validate your Child’s Feelings
As a parent of a child who’s afraid to go to the doctor, your first instinct is to reassure them that everything will be okay. While there’s nothing wrong with that, make sure your child feels heard.
Start by validating their feelings by letting them know you understand how they feel. Share an experience of a time when you were nervous and how you overcame it.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
If your child asks, “Am I going to get a shot?”, tell the truth.
Studies show that kids who aren’t expecting a shot get a lot more upset than kids who have had time to prepare.
Also, resist the urge to promise it’ll be painless. Instead, be open about what you know and don’t know. Emphasize that going to the doctor is how we stay healthy; and healthier people have fewer visits to the doctor.
Give your Child Something to Look Forward to
If your child knows that you’ll be doing something fun together after the doctor’s appointment, they might be less afraid. However, don’t give the impression that they will lose out on the treat if they’re not brave.
The point is to give your child something to look forward to next time, not to reward or punish them. Don’t forget to tell them how well they did when you leave the doctor’s office.
When all Else Fails
Some kids have latrophobia, which is an irrational fear of doctors and hospitals. They are not just anxious about doctor’s visits; they are deathly afraid of them.
In these cases, therapy is the way to go as it can help the child identify the cause of the phobia and overcome it eventually.
You want your child to have a positive association with seeing their doctor. Reduce their fear and increase their trust with these tips.