How to Help Your Child Through Doctor's Office Jitters

Although we strive to make our offices as inviting and friendly as possible, your child may still worry about visiting Penguin Pediatrics. It’s normal for a child to get the jitters before heading to the doctor. 

Visiting our office is an unknown. The fear of shots or other pain is real. Even talking to a stranger or grown-up, whether it’s Dr. Umesh Kodu or our nurse practitioner, Jamie, can be intimidating for some kids. Having a stranger, even a health care provider, touch their bellies and look at their entire body may feel confusing when they’ve been taught to stay away from strangers. A child may even fear they may do something wrong at the doctor’s visit and be scolded or punished.

Regular visits to see us at Penguin Pediatrics are essential though. You benefit from important preventive services and get a chance to discuss health concerns. It’s important to know that your child is on track for normal growth and vaccines, and that they’re in good health overall. 

When a young patient resists doctor’s appointments and acts out, it can make you want to avoid these visits. And, even if you make it in, an uncooperative child can make it hard for you to hear what Dr. Kodu has to say.

Some simple strategies will help your child with the doctor’s office jitters. Help your child ease their doctor’s office jitters with these tips. And, of course, let them know we can’t wait to see them.

Educate your child in advance

The great unknown of the doctor’s office and what’s going to happen during the visit can be terrifying for a young child. Help your child understand what happens at the pediatrician’s office by reading age-appropriate books about doctor’s visits or watching an episode of their favorite show during which the characters go to the doctor.

You can also give them a play-by-play as to what will happen. This helps them know exactly what to expect. Start with explaining that you’ll drive to our office. Let them know that you check in – at which time they can meet the friendly staff – and that they can play in our kid-friendly waiting area. 

Once you head to an exam room, tell them how they’ll meet the nurse who will weigh them, take their temperature, and may ask some questions about how they’re feeling. Tell them they’ll get to meet Dr. Kodu, too, and explain how he’ll look at their body, listen to their heart, and ask more questions.

Incorporate the “doctor” into play

When your child plays prior to the visit, encourage them to role play with dolls or stuffed animals. Have them use gauze to wrap “injuries,” bandages on “cuts,” and use a play stethoscope to check the toys’ vital signs. They may even bring the “patient” to their own visit to offer comfort and support.

Don’t mislead your child

Often, kids don’t want to go visit the doctor because they’re afraid of “shots.” You might be tempted to assure them that they won’t receive one – even if they’re due -- just to allay their fears. This is a poor strategy, however. If you stick to your promise, that means you leave the visit without your child receiving a vital vaccine. If you don’t, and we administer the shot, it will only justify their fears and make them trust you less when it comes to matters of the doctor.

Don’t bring up “shots” unless your child does. When they do mention their fears, assure them that they’re plenty brave enough to handle it. Avoid sugar-coating what’s going to happen. Instead, express your confidence in your child’s ability to manage.

Don’t dwell on the visit

Do tell your child that a doctor’s appointment is in their future, but you don’t need to constantly remind them about it the week before, days before, or even hours before. The more importance you put on the visit, the larger the experience looms.

Let the visit just be a normal part of your child’s day. The buildup to the appointment and the worry is usually worse than the actual event.

Loosen up your rules and give rewards

Consider making a doctor’s visit an event where your child is worthy of special treatment. Read a book to your child in the waiting room or let them play online games as a reward when they get home after getting a shot. You’ll create positive associations with the doctor’s office, reducing fear and aversion.

Another strategy is to promise your child an ice cream treat or a small toy after the visit, which may make the visit exciting rather than scary. 

Don’t let doctor’s office jitters get in the way of your child’s health and wellness. Call Penguin Pediatrics PLLC to set up your child’s appointment at one of our offices in Ashburn or Stone Ridge, Virginia, or book your visit online. Then use some of these tips to prepare your little one.

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