Managing Your Children's Fear of the Doctor
Routine medical appointments, including those that involve vaccinations or other injections, should not be traumatic experiences for the vast majority of children. If you find that trips to the doctor are troublesome, try these tips:
  • Use a "kid-friendly" doctor.
    • Seek pediatricians who truly are child-centered by speaking to them directly. A doctor who talks primarily to the parents may foster feelings of powerlessness and dread in the child.
    • Doctors should be forthcoming and truthful. Falsely insisting "it won't hurt a bit" has disastrous consequences in the long run. The child learns to distrust doctors and takes away unintended lessons about the importance of honesty.
    • Some kids react adversely to the traditional white coat; doctors who "dress down" may connect with these kids better.
    • Doctors who delegate injections to nurses often are more effective in conducting examinations, since kids are less apt to shrink from the doctor as a source of pain.
  • Secondly, do your part. A worried or frightened child might be responding to cues from parents. Acting or speaking in a nervous or alarmist way can transfer fears to a child. Pooh-poohing a child's fears can be just as bad. Refusing to discuss fears in an honest, direct manner can lead a child to conclude that the parent is hiding unpleasant facts.
  • If injections are a major problem, consult with the doctor about means to reduce the pain associated with injections and other procedures. For example, transdermal patches can deliver some medications that normally would be injected.
  • Finally, stress the importance of good health. Make children aware of the necessity of regular medical appointments, and announce routine visits well in advance. Springing a regular visit upon a child as a last-minute surprise is more apt to spur anxiety than to stem it. With vaccinations, doctors and parents can appeal to children's native altruism. Let them know that by being vaccinated, they reduce the possibility that other children might catch some nasty bug.

Topic contents Mark Kolakowski and CliqueFriends LLC, 2004 - go to our home or life advice page