Family Matters: Managing Health Appointment Fears

To an adult, going to see a doctor or dentist is a routine part of life and our self-care, but for a child, especially one who has never been, a doctor or dentist can be scary. Regular teeth cleanings, physician check-ups, vaccinations, or emergency procedures are a reality for families however children can be fearful, and anxious about getting examinations for lots of different reasons.
Some of our kiddos may: lack exposure to dentist or doctors’ offices; have painful experiences; struggle with listening or behaviors when stressed, and/or; be on the autism spectrum. Here are some solutions to help manage your children’s fears and worries that work to build positive experiences and that will promote future self-care.
Role Play. Pretending to be a nurse, doctor, dentist or physiotherapist using stuffed animals or role playing can ease the minds of children who do not know what to expect from their medical visits.
Read About It. Find a good children’s book about visiting the dentist, doctor or nurse. Many books introduce the tools and equipment used at the appointments. Seeing an animated dentist wearing a mask will likely make it less scary for your children when they see it in real life.
Visit. Give your local public health nurse or dentist a call and see if they will give you and your children a tour of their office. This can set a positive tone for any upcoming visits as your kids will be familiar the environment and the people.
Set Up Steps. Create a visual outlining the steps associated with the visit, such as, go to reception, walk into the room, greet the doctor. Have your kids color the sequence to make it more fun for them. It may also be helpful to include an after-the-doctor treat as part of the visual!
Start Early and Role Model. There are many ways to be a good role model for your children.  One way is to take your kiddos with you to the appointment. For example, take them to a general routine teeth cleaning. Let them watch the entire process, to assure that it will be okay and talk with your kids about what the dentist is doing.
It is important for your kiddos to think of medical professionals in a healthy light. With self-care in mind this week, enjoy the parenting journey.