Children's fears of going to the doctor often begin when they’re toddlers. They start to remember that they’ll be pricked and prodded, and don’t understand why. “My 19-month-old literally screams from the moment the doctor walks into the room until he walks out. He does not even like sitting or standing on the scale so the nurse can get his weight!” says Kaylan H., who is one of many mothers who come to Circle of Moms seeking a cure for their children's pediatrician phobia. When you feel like you’re a terrible parent because your toddler is a terrible patient, Circle of Moms members offer five tips as an antidote.
1. Explain Why You’re Going
Toddlers often get upset about going to the doctor “because they don’t understand what is being done," says Circle of Moms member Heather W. She goes on to explain that kids "associate the pain of their immunization shots with the people and place where they got them." Heather's daughter hasn't yet developed the verbal skills to explain why she is upset, so she screams whenever there’s a nurse or doctor nearby.
Angela D.'s daughter also screams whenever she sees a doctor or nurse. She finds that explaining right before the appointment “where we’re going and what is going to happen, and what we’re doing after that” helps to ease some of those fears. She also recommends moms bring another adult to doctor appointments. Once the exam is over, the other adult takes her daughter out of the office to play, which allows Angela to go over any important information with the doctor without distractions.
2. Read a Book and Encourage Role Play
While explaining why you’re going to the doctor and what will happen, it sometimes helps to read a book and role play, suggests Kylie W. Lori S. recommends the Richard Scarry book, Nicky Goes to the Doctor. And Kylie likes My First Visit to the Doctor by Eve Marleau. She says her 3-year-old loves to get a stick, report that the rubber ducky has a temperature, and then have her mom check her own tongue. “When you practice at home, it gets them comfortable,” Kylie adds.
Another way to practice is to take your child on a "social visit" to the doctor's office, as Tracy C. suggests. Let the staff know that you are going to swing by with your child in tow just to drop off the bill or set up the appointment. This helps kids associate doctor’s visits with experiences other than getting shots.
3. Get Your Child a Toy Medical Kit
Another way to get your toddler comfortable with the idea of going to the doctor is to get him comfortable with the tools of the trade. “Try getting a toy medical kit and having them give their doll shots,” says Tracy C., who remembers she played with empty syringes in water when she was a child.
Tracy also recommends being upfront with the doctor about your child's fears so that she can make a “more playful showing of the stethoscope,” for example.
4. Offer Rewards
Once it’s time for the actual checkup, Beth S. makes happy doctor memories by giving her daughter rewards. “Take something your child really enjoys (we take a packet of sultanas/raisins) and give them to your doctor to give to your son,” she says. “If he is screaming from the beginning, I would recommend the doctor giving it to him then. But eventually, whatever treat you bring can be given at the end of the session.”
The reward system is also endorsed by a Circle of Moms member named April. She brings along a whole bag-full of rewards, including toys, snacks, stickers, markers or something snugly. Her daughter gets to open the bag once she’s at the doctor’s office, and it makes her smile.
5. Stay Calm
Finally, remember to relax, note several Circle of Moms members. “Being so young, [toddlers] watch you and your responses,” as April H. points out. One day, your toddler will grow out of the crying and screaming stage, at which point she may need a different approach (See How to Make Your Child's Doctor or Hospital Visits Easier). But until then, “Just try to stay calm and upbeat."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.