It’s very frustrating when your child gives you a hard time about going to the pediatrician. You can empathize with her and you totally understand, but you must do your job as a parent and make sure that you go—no matter how stressful. So what do you do when the mere mention of the pedia brings your child to tears?
“Most kids are afraid to go to the doctor, that's normal and something we pediatricians are used to, hence our lollipop bribes,” says Anna Lisa Lopez-Gabriel, pediatrician at the Makati Medical Center and Medical Center Parañaque, and owner of MommyDepotOnline.com. “Most of them will actually outgrow this fear and even the fear of injections.”
Here are a few tips Dr. Lopez-Gabriel has for parents who want to manage their children’s fear of visiting the doctor.
1. Make a well-child visit. “I advise the parents of my patients to bring them for a checkup even if they are not scheduled to get their vaccines or are sick,” says Dr. Lopez-Gabriel. “We call this a well-baby or well-child visit. This way, they don't just associate the clinic visits with pain and they can start interacting with their doctors and find that we are actually good people.”
2. Run through what will happen. “If the child is big enough to understand, I also advise parents to tell them what's going to be done to them before the clinic visit,” says Dr. Lopez-Gabriel.
You can run through what exactly will happen at the pediatrician’s. Explain that the doctor or nurse is going to measure how tall and how heavy they are, that the doctor is going to look into their ears, nose, and mouth with a flash light, that the doctor is going to use the stethoscope to listen to their chests, and so on. You can even ask your child what else happens at the doctor to involve her in the run through. If it’s not too much of a stretch, you can even ask what she likes about the doctor. You might be surprised!
3. Tell the truth. Don’t lie to your child and tell her that she will not get a shot if she is really going to get one. Letting her know what will happen at the pedia should still include the part she hates the most. “This way, they wont feel like they're being tricked,” says Dr. Lopez-Gabriel.
What I do with my daughter is tell her the day before that she’s going to the doctor and that she’s getting a shot. She cries instantly and I need to hold her and tell her that it’s going to be okay, but the next day, she cooperates when I tell her that it’s time to get ready for the doctor. She willingly lets the doctor check her, and when it’s time for the shot, she tells me she doesn’t want it and she cries, but when it’s done, she’s always comforted by the lollipop the nurse gives her. I’m just glad that I don’t get any resistance when we’re getting ready to leave and I don’t need to lie or bribe her.
4. Make it seem fun. “You can also try getting them doctors kit toys and play with them at home so they become familiar with the check up routine,” suggests Dr. Lopez-Gabriel. You can also buy your child books about doctors or look for shows about visiting doctors. There’s got to be an Elmo’s World on doctors out there! If you can’t find a DVD on doctors, look for a video on YouTube. Finally, remember to relax. Your attitude about this can make a big difference to your little one.
Got a parenting or relationship question for Olivia? Shoot her an email at email@example.com.
Olivia Yao has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Her latest endeavor is being a mom to her three-year-old daughter—her toughest assignment yet.