My Child Is Afraid of the Doctor: How Can I Help?

Feb 08, 2024
My Child Is Afraid of the Doctor: How Can I Help?
It's not uncommon for children to develop a fear of the doctor, and, if we’re being honest, many of us retain those anxieties into adulthood. Fortunately, parents can do much to ease childhood anxiety triggered by doctor visits.

The unfamiliar surroundings, strange medical equipment, and anticipation of potential discomfort can make the doctor's office a daunting place for little ones.

As a parent, it can be challenging to witness your child's anxiety during medical visits. However, you can employ several strategies to ease their fears.

Board-certified pediatrician Dr. Phani Bodavula and his team at Garland Pediatric Practice in Garland, Texas, want every office visit to be a wonderful experience. But that’s not always possible since fevers, tummy aches, and the potential for shots can raise anxiety levels.

We can help ease your child’s anxiety by supporting you in reducing their fears about visiting the doctor. Consider these tips before, during, and after your child’s next office visit:

1. Talk about it

Start by having an open, honest, age-appropriate conversation with your child about their fears. Listen attentively to their concerns and validate their emotions. Encourage them to express what makes them anxious so you can address those concerns together.

2. Try a practice visit

If possible, take the time to familiarize your child with the office environment at Garland Pediatric Practice. Call us to arrange a visit when it's not for a medical appointment, allowing your child to explore the waiting area and examination rooms and meet some of the staff. That can help demystify the setting and reduce anxiety.

3. Role-play

Engage in role-playing at home to make the doctor's visit seem less intimidating. Let your child take turns being the doctor, nurse, and patient, using toy medical equipment like stethoscopes and bandages.

This playful approach can help them feel more in control and even find humor in the situation.

4. Choose the right words

Be mindful of the language you use when discussing medical appointments. Avoid using frightening terms and opt for positive, age-appropriate explanations.

And don’t make promises you can’t keep. For instance, if it’s time for immunizations, instead of saying, "It won't hurt," try, "The shot will be like a quick pinch that’s over in a second."

5. Bring comfort items

Allow your child to bring a comfort item, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, to the doctor's appointment. Having a familiar object can provide a sense of security during the visit.

6. Reward their courage

Consider implementing a reward system for positive behavior during and after the doctor's appointment. Offer a small treat or a particular activity to reward their bravery. This positive reinforcement can create a positive association with medical visits over time.

7. Be a role model

Children often model their behavior after their parents. Demonstrating a calm and positive attitude toward medical visits can help alleviate your child's fears. Share your own experiences, emphasizing the importance of regular checkups for maintaining good health.

Addressing your child's fear of the doctor requires patience, understanding, and proactive efforts.

At Garland Pediatric Practice, we’re happy to support our patients and their parents with a welcoming atmosphere focused on outstanding, personalized care from infancy through adolescence.

Schedule a visit today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.