9 Easy Ways to Ease Your Child's Fear of the Doctor

Fear of the doctor

The pediatrician’s office can feel like a home away from home for many families. From birth to age 10, your child will most likely have at least 20 medical checkups, and that doesn’t include visits for illnesses or injuries. Unfortunately, the combination of an unfamiliar environment and anxiety about pain can create a fear of the doctor in many children, starting as early as their toddler years.

Since doctor’s visits are a vital aspect of supporting our children’s health and wellness, it’s important that we make them as comfortable as possible for our kids. Consider these nine tried-and-true tips from experts in the medical field next time you schedule an appointment for your child.

How to overcome your child’s fear of the doctor

1. Bring something special from home

Jill Whitney, a marriage and family therapist at Green Tree Professional Counseling, said bringing something from home might make doctor’s office visits less stressful for little ones, adding a touch of comfort to an otherwise intimidating environment. A stuffed animal or blanket might be a great place to start.

“We always brought my kids’ special stuffed animals on doctor visits and introduced them to the doctor,” she said. Connecting something familiar to an unfamiliar place could be just the trick for acclimating fearful kids to a new environment.

2. Be honest

Whitney also said it’s important to find a healthy balance of honesty and helpful information to prepare your child for a visit to the doctor. “Acknowledge that going to the doctor isn’t fun — but it is important. Say things like, ‘I know, it’s kind of yucky to get poked and prodded, and I don’t like getting shots either. But I go to the doctor because it’s important to stay healthy, and that’s why I take you. And Dr. Smith is really pretty nice. We can ask him questions about our bodies.’” Conversations like this one can help ensure realistic expectations for your kids and mentally prepare them for upcoming visits.

3. Talk about those shots

There’s always the big question of whether a shot will be involved in a medical visit, and older kids will often ask. Whitney said it’s crucial to prepare kids ahead of time for vaccinations so they know just what to expect at every appointment.

“My kids were always most worried about whether they’d be getting a shot. I learned to call before the appointment to find out whether they’d be getting any. Then I could reassure them when a given appointment didn’t involve needles,” she said. Preparing in this way could be a helpful tool in taking the edge off your little one’s anxiety.

4. Prepare them as much as possible

Dr. Danielle Wiese, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health, encourages parents to prepare their children by letting them know what to expect — especially for potentially uncomfortable moments.

“With children who are no longer wearing diapers, it seems strange for a grownup to look at their private parts. Have a discussion about why doctors need to check all of our body parts, even private ones. I usually tell the child, ‘It’s okay for me to check because I’m a doctor and your parents say it’s okay,’” she said. “If the child is prepared for this before the visit, it is less of a shock for them.”

5. Bring a distraction

Dr. Charles Shubin is a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. He said distractions are usually key in keeping his young patients happy before and during appointments: “Electronic distraction is now the usual way kids I see are distracted, and rather effectively, too.” If you have them, try bringing an iPad or another electronic activity to distract your child in the waiting room so they don’t spend time worrying about their appointment.

6. Help them engage with the provider

At a certain age, parents stop going into the exam room with their kids, so it’s important to prepare older children for this milestone. Whitney said, “It’s helpful to model asking questions — taking an active role in one’s healthcare. If my kids wondered about something, I’d nudge them to ask it, even though they felt shy at first.”

7. Choose a friendly doctor

The provider ultimately sets the tone for the entire office visit, so choosing a doctor who makes your kids feel comfortable is key. Not sure where to start? Ask friends or family members with children which clinic they go to and which pediatrician they see, or read reviews and ratings of doctors online. If you’re unsatisfied with the care you’re receiving from a specific physician, don’t be afraid to try a new one.

8. Be a good role model

Fear of the doctor isn’t limited to just kids — many adults get nervous about appointments, too. Dr. Jennifer Dean, a dentist at Rancho Santa Fe Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, says, “As a dentist, there’s unfortunately a lot of fear of us out there. The children most afraid typically have phobic parents, and that fear is passed to their children in how they speak about and handle the situation when they need to see a dentist.”

Candi Wingate, founder of Care4Hire, says letting your kids see you confident in a doctor’s office might help acclimate them to their own visit. “Take your toddler with you to your own similar appointment so they can see that there’s no reason for fear.”

9. Practice at home

Anything you can do to make the doctor’s office more familiar will benefit your child’s visit, so try practicing at home a few days before the appointment. Dr. Wiese says, “The first thing we do when children step into the office is weigh them. This is a significant source of worry for many kids who don't like to stand on the scale by themselves. If you have a scale at home, let your child practice on it before you come so they know what to expect.”

Aaron Braun, Medical Director of Signature Care Emergency Center suggests a book about the doctor’s office or toy doctor’s kit to help make the medical world a little more familiar.

A parent who understands healthcare

Keeping a close eye on your child’s health is no easy task. The medical world can be hard enough to keep on your radar, even before you’ve factored in your child’s fear of the doctor. But if you are already researching how to tackle this issue, you are already ahead of the curve.

As you can see, parenting and health are more connected than you might have thought. In fact, parenting develops a strong skillset for work in healthcare. Learn about the impressive skills parents and nurses have in common in our article: 6 Nursing Qualities You’ve Already Mastered as a Mom.


RELATED ARTICLES:

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She also works as a copywriter for a creative agency and edits an online magazine where she enjoys connecting with others through the written word.

Receive Personalized Information Today

  • Personalized financial aid
  • Customized support services
  • Detailed program plan
  • Attend a no-obiligation Nursing Information Session
  • Meet the Dean of Nursing
  • Enrollment application
  • Personalized financial aid
  • Career path guidance

How may we contact you?

Please complete all fields

What would you like to study?

The program you have selected is not available in your area. Please select another program of interest.

By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided.

close
Share Your Story Ideas
Our campuses and online community have stories to tell and we want to hear them! Did your campus raise the most money in the community for an organization? Do you have online study tips for other students? Would you like to share a personal success story about overcoming an obstacle while earning your degree?
To have your story idea considered:
  • You must be a faculty member, current student or graduate
  • Story ideas must be regarding Rasmussen College or an inspiring story about a student at Rasmussen College
  • Your submission must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online already
Please Note: Your story idea may be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat or on one of our social networks. A member of our news team will contact you should we move forward with a blog post.
Feel free to suggest an idea for a blog post to be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat by filling out the form below:

First Name: (required)

Last Name: (required)

Email Address: (required)

Phone Number: (required)

500 characters or less

close

Your Story Idea Has Been Submitted

Thank you for sending us a story idea! We’re reviewing submissions and may contact you soon to learn more about your story. In the meantime, make sure to check out our current blogs to see what’s happening on campus.

close