What to Do if your Child is Afraid of a Doctor

What to Do if your Child is Afraid of a DoctorLet’s face it, no child – or adult for that matter – enjoys going to the doctor, but some children are more afraid than others. It’s no surprise that your child struggles with doctor visits, particularly since most children like to avoid being handled by unfamiliar people as much as possible. On top of that, there’s always the horrifying risk that shots could be on the horizon.

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If your child is afraid of a doctor, you can try these tips to make him or her feel a little calmer, and safer during their next visit.

1.    Stay with Them

Though some parents will need to have a grandparent or alternative care provider take their children to doctor’s appointments, it’s often easier if you can go with your kid yourself. Your children look to you for comfort in new situations, so try to schedule at least the first few appointments around days that you can go with your youngster.

2.    Validate Their Fears

It’s no good saying things like “don’t be afraid” or “it won’t hurt” to your children when they’re concerned about a shot or a doctor’s appointment. Doing this is likely to make you seem less caring and credible. Instead, inform your child that you know the experience is unpleasant, but it’s for the best. Tell them that you’ll get through it together, and it will all be over soon.

3.    Be a Distraction

If your child is particularly afraid of having their blood-pressure taken, or getting a shot, then it might be helpful to find ways to distract them as much as possible. For instance, try and ask them about their day, or talk to them about what they want to do after the doctor’s visit is over. This will help them to focus on something other than their discomfort.

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4.     Let Them Know What to Expect

We often fear the things that we don’t understand the most. If you’re not sure what’s going to happen at a doctor’s appointment, try to be as truthful as possible and remind your child that whatever happens, it will be over quickly, and you’ll be there for them no matter what.

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5.    Give them Some Control

When kids make decisions, they feel more powerful, so try to give them control where you can. For instance, let them decide where they sit on the examination table, or whether they want the doctor to check their height or weight first. All of these simple choices will make them feel less powerless in the face of a scary experience.

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  • Very helpful! Going to the doctor has been a real struggle for us, and I never thought to try and give my son some of the control back. We will have to try that the next time we go.

  • adriana

    These are great tips! I know I’ve always hated the doctor, so I can only imagine what a hard time I gave my mom when I was little haha! I still hate it but know its a necessary not-so-evil. 😉 Great post!

  • I’ve been through that stage of parenting and I must admit, it was a difficult time. Taking the kids to have their shots was stressful for both them and myself. However, I think proper communication is the key. When they learn to understand the reasons why it has to be done, then it will ease their anxiety. Maybe they’d even dream of becoming a doctor someday.

  • Elizabeth O.

    I agree, no matter what the age, people will be afraid of seeing doctors. I think these are very good tips. Being there will definitely calm them down. What I usually do is tell them what to expect so they won’t get nervous.

  • Tami Qualls

    I have a child with extreme fear and sensory processing disorder. I recommend finding a doctor with staff who are specialized and patient. This along with your suggestions, a child will have an easier time.

  • I always found it easier to tell my daughter what to expect when she had to go to the doctor. I would also promise to take her out for ice cream afterwards. That always seemed to work.

  • I love this topic. It’s not talked about enough. My favorite is validating their fears.

  • Kelly Reci

    very helpful article! my son is really afraid of doctors and nurses! ill remember this post!

  • Jenn Worden

    These are great tips. My youngest was scared of the doctor for the longest time.