Is Your Child Scared of Their Pediatrician? 5 Ways to Calm Those Fears

Is Your Child Scared of Their Pediatrician? 5 Ways to Calm Those Fears

As a pediatrician, I have one goal: to help parents keep their children healthy.

Sometimes, however, achieving that goal is difficult because my little patients are afraid of going to the doctor. In point of fact, according to a 2018 national poll conducted by the University of Michigan C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, half of children aged 2 to 5 are afraid of visiting the doctor.

If you are a parent with a child who is afraid of their doctor, the question is, can I do anything to soothe my kid’s fears?

In the spirit of the Halloween season, here are five ways you can calm your child’s anxieties and make visits to the pediatrician less stressful.

Don’t Make Jokes That Might Scare Them

Humor is one of the most common ways that we grownups cope with our fears. For young children, though, making jokes can backfire bigtime.

Here’s an example.

Say your child is especially afraid of needles (one of the most common fears). If you know that your child is not going to get a shot during your upcoming appointment, it’s not wise to tease them about the possibility of getting a shot, especially to promote good behavior—think “If you don’t sit still, I might ask the doctor to give you a shot.”

Young children are very literal, so if you tell them a joke, they may take you at your word.

Only Make Promises You Can Keep

Alternatively, if you know your child is going to get a shot, don’t lie about it. Doing so can break the trust your child has in you, which won’t make future visits to your pediatrician any easier.

Talk to Them before the Visit to Prepare Them

Whether your child is scheduled for a shot or not, you should talk to them about what to expect before your appointment. For many children, a fear of visiting the doctor is really a fear of the unknown.

There are many resources, like books and TV programs, that can help you communicate what it’s like to go to the doctor. If you want to learn more about the resources that are available, talk to me during your next visit, or contact my office.

Comfort Them during the Appointment

During an appointment, it is critical for parents like you to take on the role of comforter. Some parents want to help the pediatrician, so they try to restrain their child. A gentle approach is a better strategy. Holding your child before, after, and even during a visit can lower their fears.

Reward Them Afterward

Even if your child’s visit to the doctor does not go as well as you hoped, you can still help them overcome their fears. One way to help them associate their pediatrician with good feelings is to treat them to a reward after their appointment.

A simple trip to get ice cream or the movies can create good associations with the doctor and soften their fears for their next checkup.

Talk to a Pediatrician Who Cares

Is your child afraid of the doctor? I am here to help you. Get in touch with me today if you have any questions.