Parenting Perspective: Visiting the doctor

September 28, 2010

Even adults have fears about doctors' offices, so experts say such feelings among children are natural. But the key for parents is relieve those fears by talking about them.

Most children are usually fearful about the following, when visiting the doctor:

1. Separation - that parents may leave them in the exam room.

2. Getting a shot or something else that will be painful.

3. The unknown. Experts say it's common for kids to worry that their problem may be worse than what mom and dad is telling them...and the anxiety could reach various heights like the child may have to be hospitalized - or may even die.

That's why communication is so important before the doctor's visit. What has worked for me as a parent is encouraging my son to express any fears or worries, and acknowledging that such feelings are okay.

Here are some other helpful tips:

1. Clearly explain the purpose of the visit in words they understand, like "the doctor just wants to see how well you're growing and if your body is healthy". It may also be important to stress that healthy kids (not just sick ones) go to the doctor's office.

2. Tell children what to expect during a routine exam. A good idea may also be to use a doll or teddy bear to show a younger child what a nurse or doctor might do ( such as looking at eyes and ears, into the mouth, tapping or pressing the tummy - and yes even examining private parts).

3. Addressing possible guilt. Sometimes a child may harbor feelings of guilt, believing that their illness or condition is punishment for something they did or didn't do, and that the doctors exam or procedure is part of the punishment. Experts say in these cases, it's extremely important for parents to emphasize that their son or daughter did nothing wrong...although many visits to the doctor may result from children being unsafe or disregarding rules.

Again, a child needs to know that going to the doctor is not a punishment. Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.

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