Every parent knows that going to the doctor with a baby is sometimes a very difficult task. Screams, tears, tantrums and other manifestations of children’s fear puzzle moms and dads so much that they often put off going to the doctors on the back burner. But after all, in many medical issues it is impossible to delay, not to mention acute cases. What to do?
First of all, you need to use the proven advice of pediatricians and psychologists and figure out what is the reason for the children’s fear of doctors.
Why are children afraid of doctors?
Even adults are frightened by doctors and various medical paraphernalia. What can we say about children who are also frightened by the fear of the unknown?
Most often, the fear of doctors does not come from nowhere. In a child, this fear is fueled by various attitudes, memories or unpleasant impressions to which he immediately reacts: he goes into denial, cries, trembles, screams, rests his feet.
According to experts, children experience their peak fear of doctors at the age of 2 to 9 years. This is because at this age, children are already familiar with doctors and roughly understand what awaits them: it may be painful, cold, unpleasant and scary. There are other reasons for this behavior:
- intimidation by adults with medical procedures — “If you don’t stop behaving badly, the doctor will come and give you an injection!”;
- experienced deception on the part of parents (“it won’t hurt, you’ll see”);
- fear of an unknown place and a stranger, which is any doctor for a child;
- wary attitude towards all strangers;
- previous negative experience of interacting with a specialist (painful injections, bitter pills, blood type, etc.);
- frightening overalls and scary tools (large glasses, behind which one cannot see a person, sharp tongs, drills, a bunch of wires, etc.);
- negative attitude of parents to doctors (constant discussion of specialists in a negative way, bad reviews about procedures out loud in front of a child);
- the doctor’s harsh attitude towards the baby (loud voice, increased intonation, unpleasant harsh actions or offensive words).
Before going to a medical institution with a child again, it is useful to find out what exactly caused the fear of doctors in his case. And it is also worth remembering that such behavior is absolutely normal for a child — after all, this is his defensive reaction to circumstances that he considers hostile. Therefore, there is no need to swear and shout at the baby.
Recommendations for parents
When the causes of children’s fear are identified (at least presumably), then you can begin to eliminate them. Moms and dads need to arm themselves with patience and provide the child with full support at any stage of getting rid of fear.
Here are some actionable tips:
1. Practice shows that the best way to overcome fear is to live it. Play with your child at the dentist’s office or going to the vaccinations. Let his toys or himself be the patients, dad be a kind doctor, and grandmother be a nurse. Tell during the game in as much detail as possible — what will happen. How do you collect all the necessary documents in a backpack. You will go by bus. Come to the clinic and put on shoe covers for everyone. How will you play cities at the office in line. And what exactly the doctor will do with the child inside. When the baby knows what will happen to him, it is no longer so scary.
Ask your child what will help him not be so afraid — a favorite plush rabbit in his hands or a joint trip to the rides after the dentist?
2. Interest in medical topics is well stimulated by thematic educational games. Therefore, a child can buy a whole set to play doctor, or come up with a role-playing game with white coats and thermometers. All actions during the game should be performed carefully, calmly, without raising your voice. Heal each other or your favorite toys! Also, in such a game, it is good to separately focus on various procedures, for example, injections. You can explain to the baby why they are needed and that now that the plush hare has been vaccinated, he will not get measles, as it protects him well.
3. Directly at the doctor’s, you should not lie to the child about the painlessness of the procedure. This will only undermine his confidence if suddenly an injection or drill turns out to be unpleasant and painful. It is best to gently warn: “This is a necessary procedure that will help you to be healthy and strong. Be patient, and I will hold your hand.» Also, at each stage, you need to warn the baby about what will happen to him next or what he needs to do: “Now you need to open your mouth wide”, “Please lift your T-shirt so that the doctor listens to you with a special stethoscope.”
4. Watch your speech carefully. Eliminate any negative words and phrases about doctors. Never try to scare your child with injections, hospitals and a white coat to make him sleep or eat soup. There is no need to discuss incompetent doctors with a grandmother in front of a child or swear at your optometrist.
5. Do not forbid the child to worry and be afraid. You should not demand from him to urgently become a superhero and push his feelings away for the sake of your approval. Fear is a normal reaction to the unknown and pain, help the child cope with what is happening, support him with a conversation. Say that you understand how he may feel, you want to cheer him up and you will definitely be there.
6. On the Internet, you can find many thematic cartoons for children that explain in an accessible language what specific doctors do. This is especially useful for a child: he will know what awaits him in the office of a specialist. You can use help books: «Aibolit», «The Adventures of the Yellow Suitcase», «House of Brave Cowards», «Doctor Myshkin’s Ambulance», «For Children about Doctors».
And of course, the main recommendation is to find «your» doctor — friendly, calm and just pleasant. Read reviews about doctors and do not be afraid to look for new specialists with whom the child will be comfortable.