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Easing Your Child's Anxiety at the Doctor's Office

by Jaime Friedman, M.D., Children's Physicians Medical Group

Pediatricians have all been there -- the child is screaming, the parent is anxious, and the exam just isn’t getting done.  During a busy day, it’s hard to wait for a parent to calm their child for an adequate lung or ear exam, so now the doctor is anxious!  There are preparatory steps that a parent can remember to make a visit to the doctor more comfortable for the little patient:

Prepare your child in advance.  Let him/her play doctor with a set of toy doctor tools.  Bring the toys with you or bring a stuffed toy for the doctor to examine.

Don’t lie about shots or promise that there won’t be any if you are coming for a well visit.  The immunization schedule is always being updated and boosters get added.  The shots are usually built into the well visit and are part of preventative care, so that is the best time to get them done if they are needed.

Make sure you can hold your child for the exam, even if they are freaking out.  The exam will be faster and more effective if your child is still. 

Avoid saying “it’s ok” or “it won’t hurt."  It is better for your child to hear you validate his/her emotions and know that being scared or nervous is actually ok.  They don’t have to like or enjoy what’s being done to them. 

It’s ok to have a “lovey” or favorite toy with you, or even a song or movie on your phone to distract your child.  

We understand that coming to see us can be scary.  Let’s face it, the wait is boring, we use big words, and there may be something painful coming.  But when it’s all over, we both want what is best for your child, which is to have an accurate exam and diagnosis.  The best way to make that happen is for your child to be at ease and cooperate as much as possible.  If that means a little bribery is needed (do I hear sticker and lollipop?), well, I’m not going to object!

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