5 Tips for Better Doctors’ Visits with Kids
There are few things children and parents dread more than doctor’s visits. They can be a traumatic experience for little ones, as there is so much unknown, and they are at their most vulnerable. Moreover, no child wants to get shots and no parent wants to watch the pain on their little one’s face as they get pricked. Many kids suffer from pre-visit nerves. But it is totally normal for kids (and parents) to feel weary. While doctor’s visits will never become “fun”, there are a few ways to make them less dreadful. Here are 5 tips to help you and your child have a better visit to the doctor’s office and a more tolerable check-up.
Occupy the Time
The only thing worse for kids than actually seeing the doctor is the time spent in the lobby anxiously waiting to see the doctor. As a parent, you cannot control the hefty wait times, but you can try to make the time go faster by keeping your child occupied. Most offices supply toys, books, and puzzles for children to play with as they wait, so use these to your advantage. Or, you can be proactive and bring along your child’s own toys from home, such as coloring books, stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures. The benefits of bringing your own toys are that you know they are clean, and they are also more comforting and familiar to your child. Many offices still allow for electronic devices, at least while waiting, so your child can watch a show or play a game, as long as you bring along headphones, so it doesn’t disturb the other patients.
If this is your child’s first visit in a while and they don’t know what to expect, it’s best to give them a heads up. Reassure them that the doctor is their friend who is there to make sure they are happy and healthy. You can even “play doctor” a few times at home, giving them a toy stethoscope and bandages so they become familiar with the objects they are sure to see during their visit. The more familiar you can make your child with what is to come, the better!
Do Your Part
It is great if your child is prepared, but, as the parent, you also have some work to do ahead of time to ease everyone’s stress. You should show up to the office with all of your child’s updated records, forms, insurance papers, etc. Many offices will send you whatever you absolutely need to prepare ahead of time, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for other papers to spare some time in the waiting room. You should also prepare a list of any questions or concerns you may have so you don’t forget to address them during your visit.
Allow Kids to Ask Questions
Kids are curious by nature. Allow your child to ask whatever questions they have, whether it is about the checkup process, their health, or really anything random that comes to their mind. Paying attention to their concerns will help them feel understood and silence their fears, making for a more successful visit. This will also help your doctor and child become acquainted with one another, perhaps on a deeper level that will carry over into their later years. All good doctors visits are built on trust, so it is best to foster these relations as early as possible.
Reward Good Behavior
Once all is said and done, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief. If your child did well, you should reward their good behavior. Many offices offer stickers and lollipops, which are great to give your child so they can associate their in-office behavior with something positive. We also recommend taking the reward beyond the office. Some fun ideas are taking them out for ice cream, buying them a new toy, seeing a movie, or doing whatever little thing you think would make them feel a sense of satisfaction.
Bonus Tip: How to Prep for the Dentist
Very similar to going to visit the doctor, an appointment with the dentist can be just as dreaded. Beyond the tips listed above, there are a few dentist-specific things you can do to have a better visit. First, practice proper oral hygiene at home so the dentist will have less tooth plaque scraping to do when you arrive. With toddlers and older kids, it is smart to get them comfortable brushing their own teeth or at least holding the toothbrush, so they have some feelings of familiarity. Once in the office, allow children to choose what they can control, such as their toothpaste flavor and toothbrush color. Most of all, keep them engaged during the visit by telling them stories and asking simple questions that only involve a head nod. This way, their focus will be on the conversation and less on the loud (and sometimes scary) noises from the cleaning equipment. Just like a doctor’s visit, it is great to reward good behavior once the visit is over. Maybe even treat yourself to a little something too, knowing these visits will get easier over time!