Being afraid of the doctor is a common fear among young children. According to parenting blog What to Expect, it’s not uncommon for this fear to begin to develop during the second half of a child’s second year, since this is about the time that your toddler’s able to remember previous visits.
What can you do to help your child overcome a fear of doctors? Here are some tips for before, during and after the visit:
Before the Appointment
- Play doctor. Children learn best while playing. Consider giving your child a toy doctor’s kit and let them play the role of doctor and give you a check-up with their toys.
- Avoid associating the doctor with a punishment. As tempting as it may be to warn your child that if vegetables aren’t eaten, they will get sick and have to go to the doctor, doing so gives the doctor’s visit a negative connotation.
- Read books or find children’s apps, such as consumer health information website Healthline’s “Big Shots Get Shots” free storybook app, that feature positive experiences with the doctor.
During the Appointment
- Try to avoid appointments during times when your child may be hungry or tired.
- If your child is especially fearful or anxious, alert the staff ahead of time.
- Offer as much comfort as possible to calm your child at the doctor’s office. This could include bringing their favorite toy or comfort item, such as a security blanket, or simply holding their hand throughout the visit.
After the Appointment
- Plan something special for after the doctor’s visit, such as your child’s favorite treat or perhaps a trip to the park. It’s important to follow through on this, regardless of how your child acts during the visit, so that they will begin to associate a trip to the doctor with something pleasant.