4 Tips to Ease Doctor’s Office Fear
Taking a child to the doctor’s office is obviously less fun than say, going to the zoo. Everything from figuring out an appointment time that works to the vaccinations, forces it way down to the bottom of the list of things I like to do. This is compounded by the fact that my daughter has reached the age where she knows exactly what is going on, she can anticipate things (like shots), and she has enough strength to climb up on top of my shoulders.
Right after my little one’s second birthday, it was time to go in for her yearly check-up, so when we were taking a bath the night before, I mentioned VERY CASUALLY that we would be going to the doctor’s office the next morning.
She looked at me like I had committed a terrible act of betrayal. “No. I not going to the doctors, I not getting a shot in my leg,” she said pointing to the exact spot she got her flu shot.
Damn it! She remembers that little trip! Hmmmm…how to handle this one…
“I’m sorry love, we are going to have to go, but Mommy will be there with you,” I said, with the full intention of dropping the conversation.
No luck. Every 15 minutes or so until she went to bed, she would tell me that she was not going to the doctor’s office. And it was the first thing she mentioned in the morning when I got her out of bed.
So we went...and she completely freaked out. I consoled her, talked her through every step and felt the sweat run down my back. There is nothing worse than seeing your child legitimately afraid and upset.
When we were wrapping up, the pediatrician told me that she needed some blood work at a local lab, and to follow up with her orthopedist to check her hips (to make sure there weren’t still issues after being born with dislocated hips). OH - and one more visit for a weight check.
Awesome…3 more trips to visit medical personnel in the upcoming weeks…which not only wreaks havoc on my work schedule, it also wreaks havoc on her mental state.
As we left office, I immediately felt for the parents of children who are really sick. I can’t even begin to imagine how they manage those types of situations.
I realized I needed to find a way to address her fear and help her move past it, for her sake, my sake and the sake of the medical community. It is MUCH easier to examine a child when they are cooperating. Something about screaming over their screams to the doctor, “WHEN SHE COUGHS IT ALMOST SOUNDS LIKE SHE IS WHEEZING” as your child tries to climb into your shirt, strikes me as less than productive.
So I came up with a 4-pronged approach that seems to have significantly eased her anxiety:
1) I give her a heads-up.
I tell her when a trip to doctor’s office is scheduled, but I don’t do so with too much lead time; usually no more than 12-18 hours before we go. This way she isn’t surprised, but doesn’t have too much time to completely freak herself out.
2) I tell her the truth about what will take place at the appointment.
This includes the name of the doctor we are seeing, if there will or will not be “pinches”, and what exactly they will do to her.
3) We play pretend.
The credit for number 3 goes to my mom. For Christmas she bought my nephew a pretend doctor’s kit which Ellie fell in love with. My mom then went out and bought another one for her so she now has her own. She can look in my ears, listen to my heart, take my temperature and see how not scary the entire process is.
4) I recognize that she is scared.
And I tell her that I promise to be there for her. Let’s face it, it wasn’t long ago that I had to hop up on a operating table and let a doctor cut a baby out of my womb, so I can relate to anxiety around having things done to your body. But I also recognize how much easier it is when you have mom there to hold your hand (which was the case for me, because I delivered sans partner).
I can proudly report that when we went back to the doctor’s this past week for (yet another) high fever and ear infection, we brought our pretend doctor’s kit, and there were no tears, and complete cooperation.