Going to the doctor’s office can be anxiety provoking for preschoolers. This is often because preschoolers either don’t know what to expect, or remember getting a shot the last time they were there and don’t want to get another one. However, parents can help their preschoolers be more relaxed about going to the doctor’s office. Here’s how.
1.) Acknowledge their feelings. Allow your preschoolers to express their concerns. Just the act of saying them out loud can help reduce their anxiety. When they are done sharing what worries them, tell your children that you understand how they feel. Let them know that even though they’re scared, it’s important to go to the doctor’s office to help them stay healthy.
2.) Tell them what to expect. Parents can help reduce their preschoolers’ anxiety by helping them understand what will happen during the doctor’s appointment. One way to do this is by reading books to your preschooler about going to the doctor’s office. There are a lot of great books on this subject, including Going to the Doctor by Anne Civardi, Corduroy Goes to the Doctor by Don Freeman, The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and What to Expect When You Go to the Doctor by Heidi Murkoff. While reading these books, it’s helpful to insert the name of your preschooler’s pediatrician as the name of the doctor in the book. Also, add or omit details to make the book more relevant for your child’s experience.
Another way to help preschoolers understand what will happen at the doctor’s office is to have them play with a toy doctor’s kit. You and your child can take turns pretending to be the doctor and use the stethoscope and other medical items to give each other a check-up. Then your child can pretend they are the doctor giving a check-up to one of their stuffed animals.
3.) Be honest about the shots. Shots are often the most dreaded part of a doctor’s appointment. Therefore, it’s important that they understand that the doctor gives them a shot to help keep them healthy. When discussing how it feels to get a shot, don’t tell preschoolers that the shot won’t hurt; instead, tell them it feels like a pinch and will be over quickly. Be honest with your child if any procedure will be uncomfortable because if you tell your child something will not be painful and it is, your child will be less likely to trust you in the future.
4.) Provide comfort and praise. Provide comfort and praise to preschoolers while they’re at the doctor’s appointment. In addition to soothing words and physical affection, it helps to bring along a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to give them a sense of comfort and security. Your support and understanding will help preschoolers gain confidence and influence their ability to cope in the future.