Many children are hesitant, reluctant or downright afraid to visit the doctor. Their feelings of fear – and sometimes guilt – are caused by a variety of issues. Understand what is stressing your child and you can help alleviate his or her doubts.
Most Common Fears
These are the most common reasons why children are nervous about a visit to the doctor:
- Separation – Children often worry their parents will leave them to fend for themselves when it comes time for the checkup. They don’t want to face the doctor alone while the parent(s) wait in the lobby. This is most common in children under seven years.
- Pain – Some children worry about the pain associate with various medical procedures. Children between the ages of six and 12 often fear injections.
- The Doctor – It isn’t uncommon for children to confuse the doctor’s speed and efficiency with sternness and dislike.
- The Unknown – If a child is venturing to the doctor’s office for something other than a routine checkup, it isn’t unheard of for the child to assume the worst. Children might fear their condition is worse than it is. They might mistake a simple problem for one that requires surgery. And children often associate a common illness with a death sentence.
How Guilt Affects a Child’s Outlook
Some children interpret their condition or illness is a punishment for something they did or didn’t do. They feel their naughty behavior cause the situation.
How to Help
One of the best ways to help your child overcome fear is to talk about their feelings.
- Explain Why Your Child is Visiting the Doctor
If you are going for a regular checkup, tell your child the doctor is simply checking how he or she is growing. Let your child know that all healthy children go to the doctor for this type of checkup.
If your child needs treatment for an illness or condition, use nonthreatening, age-appropriate words to describe what will happen.
Always give your child a heads up when doctor’s appointments are scheduled. If the visit doesn’t come as a total surprise, it might not be so terrifying. Also, make sure you always say positive things about your child’s doctor. All it would take is a few negative comments for your child to be afraid for life.
- Eliminate Guilty Feelings
Reassure your child that his illness is not brought about by something he did. He is not being punished. If you or anyone your child knows has suffered from a similar condition, talk about how you (or they) were treated.
If your child has suffered a condition that brought about ridicule from peers or friends, you are going to have to work extra hard to assail your child’s fears. Conditions like head lice, pinworm and bedwetting are often an invitation to mock.
- Something that caused ridicule or rejection from other people – double efforts
- Head lice, pin worm, bedwetting
- Suffered an injury after disregarding a safety rule
- I’m sure you didn’t mean to, now you understand
- Tell what to expect
- Learn best by play
- Use a doll
- Children’s books
- Taking blood – all blood
- Involve child in process
- Not an emergency
- Contribute to a list of symptoms
- Write down child’s questions
- Child old enough – write themselves and ask
- Choose a good doctor
- If doctor seems uncommunicative, disinterested or unsympathetic, change
- Ask for recommendations from other parents
- Needs a specialist, ask doctor to recommend someone who is friendly
Guest author Hugo Velasco works for a Pensacola chiropractor found here. He has seen children of all ages cope with their fear of the doctor.