Preparing Your Child for Visits to the Doctor
When kids anticipate "going to the doctor," many become worried and apprehensive about the visit. Whether they're going to see their primary care doctor or a specialist — and whether for a routine exam, illness, or special problem — kids are likely to have fears, and some may even feel guilty.
Some fears and guilty feelings surface easily, so that kids can talk about them. Others are harbored secretly and remain unspoken. You can help your child express these fears and overcome them.
Common Fears and Concerns About Medical Exams
Things that often top kids' lists of concerns about going to the doctor include:
- Separation. Kids often fear that their parents may leave them in the exam room and wait in another room. The fear of separation from the parent during mysterious examinations is most common in kids under 7 years old, but can be frightening to older kids through ages 12 or 13.
- Pain. Kids may worry that a part of the exam or a medical procedure will hurt. They especially fear they may need an injection, particularly kids ages 6 through 12.
- The doctor. Some kids' concerns may be about the doctor's manner. A kid may misinterpret qualities such as speed, efficiency, or a detached attitude and view them as sternness, dislike, or rejection.
- The unknown. Apprehensive about the unknown, kids also worry that their problem may be much worse than their parents are telling them. Some who have simple problems suspect they may need surgery or hospitalization; some who are ill worry that they may die.
In addition, kids often harbor feelings of guilt: They may believe that their illness or condition is punishment for something they've done or neglected to do. Kids who feel guilty may also believe that examinations and medical procedures are part of their punishment.
How to Help
You can help by encouraging your kids to express their fears and by addressing them in words that they understand and aren't likely to misinterpret. Here are some practical ways to do this:
Explain the Purpose of the Visit
If the upcoming appointment is for a regular health checkup, explain that it's "a well-child visit. The doctor will check on how you're growing and developing, and also ask questions and examine you to make sure that your body is healthy. And you'll get a chance to ask any questions you want to about your body and your health." Also, stress that all healthy kids go to the doctor for such visits.
If the visit is to diagnose and treat an illness or other condition, explain — in very nonthreatening language — that the doctor "needs to examine you to find out how to fix this and help you get better."
It's a good idea to prepare kids by giving them advance notice of the visit and thus not a complete surprise. When explaining the purpose of the visit, talking about the doctor in a positive way also helps to promote the relationship between your child and the doctor.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process