When I think of going to the doctor as a child, I’m reminded of the stark lights, the whispered conversations, and the tattered magazines my mum never read. I remember the worry as I would sit down beside our family doctor, who I could never really remember enough to feel comfortable with, as my throat burned, or my head pounded.
I can imagine what it is like for my own kids as they walk into our GP’s surgery. Nervous agitation as a respiratory infection takes hold and wondering how often the doctor will check their ears and why exactly does he need to listen to their heartbeat. A GP visit is never great fun and it’s perfectly understandable if our children are scared, nervous, or worried about their appointment.
There are things we can do to make the trip a little less nerve-wracking for our kids and with every appointment, it should hopefully get easier and easier as they become more comfortable in knowing what to expect. Here's some advice for when you are taking your child to see the doctor.
If a doctor visit is on the cards, have a plan to keep your little one occupied (and distracted). Have books for them to read in the car on the way or listen to their favourite playlist to keep them calm. Ask them if they would like you to hold their hand or sit next to them in the doctor's office for added reassurance. Make sure they know you are there to comfort them.
Some GP or hospital appointments can be more stressful or worrying and parents can naturally be nervous. Children mirror our emotions, so if they feel you are nervous or agitated, they are likely to take on those feelings which may amplify their own concerns. Keep calm by taking slow, taking deep breaths, and using a quiet, calm voice when chatting to your little one.
While rewards are not always necessary, they can show your child how brave they are in facing this challenge. Next time you're taking your child to the doctor, by telling them the reward beforehand, your little one can keep focused on what will happen after the procedure or appointment is over.
Talk About It
Throughout our children’s lives, they will likely visit the doctor again. By talking about the appointment or procedure and relieving any fears or apprehension they had, your child’s experience of the doctor will end on a positive note of understanding and compassion, making the next appointment a little easier. Ask them how they think the appointment went. Listen to their experience as they highlight what was worrying, frightening, or turned out to be not that big of a deal in the end.