For the most part, children are fearless little beasts. They jump from the most eye-watering heights, they throw themselves down dangerous slopes, and they go faster than is safe at every opportunity. They leap from sofa to sofa while pretending that the floor is lava and generally, they are not afraid of anything. And then you make an appointment with the doctor and boom – tears, screaming and you have to drag a snot and tears covered wreck out of the door.
Going to a doctor, an optician or the dentist is a part of life that all kids need to get used to, but when you are dealing with a child who is full of anxiety, how do you work around it? We’re all afraid of something, be it spiders, small spaces or heights, and if your little one has a fear of those in a healthcare setting, then there has to be some way to get around that.
First, you must be very clear about the importance of attending appointments related to health. This is whether you visit Family Braces, go for an eye test or head to the doctor for a prolonged viral illness. Children often need solid facts to make them feel secure and grounded, and if there is a valid reason that they need to attend an appointment, you must be clear about it.
Give them plenty of notice before the date. Play videos online about the appointment that are child-friendly and can make them feel comfortable with the situation. The imagination is a beautiful thing, but if your child is anxious to the point of throwing up, it’s because their imagination has run away with them.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
Next, comes validating how your child feels. You need to assure your child that it’s okay to be afraid sometimes, don’t dismiss how they feel as stupid or ridiculous. You may feel impatient with the reaction of fear, but it’s not you who is experiencing those feelings. Don’t shut them down by telling them there’s nothing to be afraid of; ask specifics and reassure that when you last had a check-up, it was important and why. Once you’ve validated their feelings, work with them through their worries. Discuss the details of what is going to happen and reassure them that the doctor/dentist/optician knows exactly what they are doing.
Be Brave Yourself
One of the biggest reasons that children become afraid of heading to medical appointments is the reaction of their parents. You may be utterly fearful of having a dental check-up, but the consensus is to bite your tongue and get through an appointment, just so your child can watch and know it’s all okay.
If you are afraid of needles, don’t react to your child having a vaccination, they will see your reaction and think there is something of which to be scared. Fear is contagious, and if you show it, the likelihood is your child will become the same way.
If this is the case, try to get someone else your child trusts to go to an appointment with you, and they can do the hand holding while you wait outside the exam room.
You can also work with your healthcare provider and let them know in advance that your child has worries. This way, they can be prepared. Doctors and dentists are adept at working with anxious patients no matter how old they are. Have some faith in your child and their feelings, and do what you can to soothe the fear.