"I don't want to go to the doctor!" is a common phrase parents get to hear. Sitting in waiting rooms, meeting a new doctor, or having to stay in the hospital, away from family and familiar surroundings, can be stressful and scary for both children and parents.
At one of our doctor visits, we played hangman with our then 8-year old daughter and the sentence in the above picture was, what we had to guess. She was, is, and always has been terrified of going to the doctor, always expecting to get a shot or other painful treatments.
What parents can do when their child is afraid of the doctor
There are several ways parents can help their child overcome their fears of a doctor’s appointment:
- Talk to their children about their upcoming doctor's visit.
- Explain to them what is going to happen during the visit, provide reassurance, read books about going to the doctor.
- Role play with a toy doctor's kit.
- Bring their child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal for comfort
However, what can doctors do to help their little patients feel less anxious, nervous and scared of their visit?
What doctors can do to help children feel less scared of going to the doctor
Here are a few things pediatricians and their staff can do to make doctor's visits easier on kids, their parents, and themselves:
- Offer a warm reception and make the waiting room welcoming, comfortable, and kid friendly.
- Offer distractions like creative play areas, toys, games, picture books, crayons, and coloring pages.
- Offer comforting exam rooms.
- Acknowledge and validate the child's feelings, allow the child to ask questions, include them in the conversation, and make them as comfortable as possible.
- Explain what’s happening at every step of the way, while using age-appropriate language.
- Praise and thank them at the end of the visit, give them a high-five or fist-bomb, shake their hands, or even give them a hug, if appropriate.
Our My Friends and I book is a great tool to help with all of the above.
What is the My Friends and I book all about?
My Friends and I is a fun, interactive journal for children ages 5-12, with soft colors and playful illustrations. The book travels from child to child, who will answer questions like: What is your favorite food? What do you like to do in your free time? What songs do you like to listen to? What books do you like to read? What do you want to be when you grow up? A picture box allows them to insert a picture of themselves or to draw a picture of their own.
How the My Friends and I book can ease little patients’ fears
If you're a pediatrician, doctor, dentist, or a hospital staff member, the My Friends and I book can help your little patients overcome their fear of doctor's visits, put their anxiety at ease, and learn more about your office's or hospital's doctors and staff, and vice versa.
Just follow these 5 simple steps:
- Have all doctors and staff fill out the My Friends and I book and add their picture to their pages.
- Allow your patients and their parents to go through the My Friends and I book and get to know your office's or hospital's doctors and staff, while they're sitting in the waiting room.
- Give your patients a fun activity by inviting them to fill out the My Friends and I book themselves.
- Engage with them during their visit, referring to their answers in the book.
- Take a picture with your patients and insert it on their pages.
Now that your little patient is “part of the family” and knows that their doctor is a normal person just like them, whose favorite food is pizza, who likes to swim in their free time, and who has a dog named Bella, future visits or a hospital stay will be much less stressful for everyone involved.
Get a My Friends and I book for your practice or hospital here.