Children can be reluctant to visit a doctor, especially when a sizable percentage of kids have had unpleasant experiences at the doctor’s office. Children get poked and prodded and often end up being jabbed with a needle for their immunizations. In addition, parents may inadvertently convey their own fears about doctors’ visits to their children.
Nevertheless, our job as parents is to help our children understand that doctors and their staff help us stay healthy and recover from illnesses. Although a doctor’s visit may seem like a punishment to your child, your reassurance and enthusiasm can help set the tone for a good experience—even if your child ends up getting a shot!
Here are some suggestions of things you can do to help your child prepare for the next trip to the doctor:
1. Play doctor
Children often learn best through play. Buy or borrow a small child’s “doctor tools” kit and then use a favorite doll or teddy bear to show your child how the hospital staff will measure their height, weight, and check their temperature. Use a small flashlight to “look” into the doll’s throat, eyes, and ears and use the toy stethoscope to show how the doctor will listen to the heart and lungs. Let your child pretend to be the doctor or nurse and help him examine the doll. Make it fun by giving the doll a voice, laughing when the belly is poked, and saying “ah” when he looks in the throat. This play-acting can help your child to see the visit in a positive light. You can also use children’s books with detailed illustrations about kids’ visits to doctors and hospitals.
2. Be open to giving your child privacy
Young children will usually want their parents in the room during examination, but older children might feel awkward if he or she have already begun to display shyness when showing their bodies to their parents. Although it is important to teach your children about the privacy of their bodies, you should also let your child know that doctors and nurse are exceptions to that rule. Talk to your child ahead of time about whether or not he or she wants you in the room during the physical exam.
3. Prep for painful procedures
Chances are you may not know what to expect when your child visits the pediatrician. It may be a good idea to discuss with your doctor or nurse what to expect during the visit: Will the doctor be using an instrument to look into your child’s ears? Will your child be getting a shot? The more you know, the better you will be able to prep your child on what to expect, helping him to mentally prepare himself for the visit.
Your child can have the ability to cope with any pain or discomfort if he or she is mentally prepared. Try to balance being honest without scaring your child. If the visit will entail a painful procedure, don’t go into too much detail.
4. Note all current symptoms or ailments
If you’re not taking your child to the hospital or clinic on an emergency basis, take the time to note down all the symptoms, whether your child appears relevant to the sickness or not. Something that may seem unrelated to us may be the missing piece for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. You may want to bring copies of all previous medical records for your child even if your doctor has an electronic health record (EHR) because services received outside of your health system have not been entered in the record.
5. Involve your child in the process
Help your child brainstorm what questions he or she wants to ask the nurse or the doctor and write them down. If there is a need for a blood test, explain to your child that the hospital lab staff will only draw a very small quantity of blood out of a huge amount of blood in their body. Explain how important it is to find out more about their illness so it can be treated or cured.
6. Choose the best doctor for your child
The deal maker or breaker in any healthcare experience is the doctor and other support staff. Choose a doctor who communicates well with you and your child and possesses a professional, calm, and courteous demeanor.
Your child’s pediatrician will be the one who helps you make important healthcare decisions, like which screening tests and shots to get. Your doctor should be able to treat a variety of health problems, and, also, be ready to refer you to a specialist when help with a specific issue is needed.
Consult your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to gather recommendations for doctors who are experienced, friendly, and knowledgeable—doctors you can trust. Check out your Doctor’s ratings on any of several doctor rating websites.
Choose a pediatrician that takes the time to listen to your concerns, encourages you to ask questions, and explains things in a way you and your child can easily understand. Since we, as adults, look for these traits in our doctors, we must look for similar doctors for our children.
You and your child must be comfortable with the healthcare professionals you choose. Knowledge and compassion should be your top priorities. Remember, if you’re not happy with your choice of provider for any reason, you have the right to change your pediatrician at any time—your child’s health and comfort depends on it.