With doctor visits starting at birth and onwards, it is only but natural for younger children to have negative thoughts regarding consultations. Whether it is just a well-baby check up, a scheduled immunization, or even just a consultation for minor health concerns, a child may not perceive it differently. For a child, it may still be that fearful visit to a stranger.
Toddlers and preschoolers may have negative thoughts regarding doctor visits. These thoughts may mostly concern the common fears that children during this stage have. First, separation anxiety is very common among younger children. A child may be afraid to be physically away from a primary caregiver, even for a short period of time. Second, younger children are generally afraid of the fear of the unknown. They are used to having routines, and taking them somewhere they are not familiar with may generate feelings of anxiety. Third, a child usually has a fear of mutilation. Even though a visit to the doctor will not involve a shot, a child can be quite anxious if he remembers a previous visit involving a vaccination.
Parents need to help a child prepare for visits in order to alleviate fears. Talk to your child and explain why he needs to visit the doctor. Be certain that you are basing your explanations according to your child’s level of understanding. Explain to your child that he is going to see the doctor not because he did something wrong, but because the doctor will help him stay healthy.
A child’s world will always involve play. Allow your child to play with medical toy kits, and go through the process of a consultation with a stuffed animal. Try to give your child the picture as to how a routine doctor’s visit will be. You can also borrow books involving doctor visits from your local library. Try to be creative and edit some parts of the story, so that you can orient your child as to what to expect during the visit. Telling pleasant stories may also allow your child to perceive a doctor in a different light.
It is essential that you listen to your child’s fears. No matter how irrelevant their fears may be, it is very important to provide reassurance. Encourage your child to ask questions so that you can address his concerns accordingly. Parents should avoid giving false reassurance to a child. Try to answer your child’s questions honestly, but not to the point that it will make the child more anxious. If it involves some kind of discomfort, orient the child and provide reassurance. Children can cope better with the discomfort if they have been forewarned.
Before leaving for the check-up, you may want to ask your child to choose some toys that you can bring along, to keep him preoccupied during the wait. Allowing him to choose may give him a sense of control over the situation. Bring as well your child’s comfort object because it may be helpful in making your child feel secured.
During the visit, you may even have your child sit on your lap during the assessment, or while the doctor is giving a shot. Having your child sit on your lap can make him feel more safe and secured. Provide lots of encouragement and reassurance. It is essential that your child feels that you are supporting him throughout the entire process. After the visit, never forget to praise the child for his bravery even if tears flowed. The important thing is for a child to remember a visit as a positive experience, and not as a punishment for something that a child has done.