Do you have an upcoming doctor or dentist appointment for your kiddo? Sometimes a trip, whether it’s a routine checkup or something more serious, can cause some big feelings in children. There are a few things that can be done to make this a smooth, less frightening experience. It isn’t just about avoiding the tantrums or feelings of fear, it’s important to build a positive and healthy doctor-patient relationship as it shows to have a wholehearted positive effect on their health as they continue to grow.
Before the big day, here are some helpful tips for caregivers:
- Talk about the visit, but not too much
- Talking to kids about their upcoming visit is important, but sometimes too much detail can intensify any negative feelings they might be feeling. A short, sweet, and simple explanation of what to expect either the night before or first thing that morning is perfect. Sometimes going into too much detail can make it a bigger deal than it needs to be.
- It’s also important to explain that we go to the doctors to stay healthy and that it doesn’t need to be this terrifying place.
- Be calm
- As parents, it’s hard to see our children not at their best or in pain. Kids are preceptive and feed off negative energy around them, which can cause them to become anxious. Just remember to be mindful to project calmness and positivity. This will be the most helpful when keeping our child at ease. Also, remember to not project your feelings on your child. For example, don’t say your child is so scared about the visit when in reality it’s the parent that is more worried than the child.
- Children learn by doing and seeing. Bust out those toy doctor tools and some stuffed animals, and have your child be the doctor. Have them check your throat with a tongue depressor, your eyes, ears, heartbeat, and lungs. Even switch roles and you be the doctor. Playing doctor is not only fun, it will help your child understand what to expect and feel a sense of control. Maybe even bring the stuffed animal “patients” you and your child role-play with.
- Don’t overpromise
- As parents, all we want to do is keep our kids safe and comfort them. At times, we even tell them things that aren’t always 100% true to comfort them. If you know it’s an appointment where they might receive a vaccination, don’t promise it isn’t going to hurt. When they get their vaccine and the needle inevitably hurts them, they might associate that pain and deceit for future appointments. Instead, be honest with them and let them know that yes it might hurt, but not as long or intense as they think. Demonstrate with a small pinch on their arm and remind them that vaccines help keep us healthy. Lastly, don’t promise they won’t get a vaccine at their appointment. In the event an unplanned vaccine is given, it can be distressing to a child if they were promised there wouldn’t be vaccines this appointment.
- Follow up with fun
- Negotiating with your child beforehand can backfire. “If you go to the doctor, I’ll buy you a toy” can encourage your child to only comply for the appointment and not after. Instead, go get ice cream or hit up an arcade afterward with no warning beforehand. Don’t tell them beforehand or make it contingent on behaving, just go. If it’s made an unspoken part of the trip, your child will begin to equate the two as positive and be more agreeable for future visits.
Little Spurs Autism Centers offers collaborative and compassionate ABA Therapy to children 0-21 years old. Offering both center-based and home-based care, LSAC is excited to empower families by providing them with the support they need. For more information, please email us at email@example.com