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Tips for taking your child to the doctor

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By Dr. Katherine Jett

Doctor’s visits can be a daunting task for parents and kids alike. Caring for children is a privilege that also comes with the challenge of making office visits as pleasant as possible for all involved. There are many ways that you can help your child have a more successful visit.

Before you go to the office, talk to your child about what to expect that day. When parents remain calm, children are much more likely to remain calm too. If you have scheduled a well visit, explain that check-ups are important to keep us all healthy. Reading a story about going to the doctor’s office or watching an episode of Doc McStuffins can also help make a child feel more comfortable with the doctor. (Singing “Time for your Check Up” is optional, but kids love it!)

We all know that some parts of a doctor’s visit are not pleasant. If your child asks about shots, be honest with your answer. If you are not sure if shots are needed, simply tell the child that you will ask during the visit. If you are going for a sick visit, the same holds true. Be honest and know that pediatricians try to minimize pokes and unpleasant exams as much as possible, but sometimes they are necessary. Reassure your child that even if something may hurt it will be over quickly and you will be there to help. To comfort infants you can talk to them, hold them, make eye contact, or sing. Keys, books, and singing songs can help distract toddlers. For older children hand held games, smart phones, and books are easy ways to divert attention away from an office procedure.

A few other tips that can help include:

•Try to avoid appointments during naptime if possible. Tired kids are more likely to be cranky and more difficult to examine.

•Bring a bottle or snack in case your little one gets hungry or needs a distraction.

•Try to bring as few children to the office as possible. Exam rooms are fairly small and fewer distractions make appointments faster and more effective.

•Bring your child’s favorite toy or blanket.

•If your child is nervous, get a toy doctor’s kit and practice examining the child or stuffed animals.

•Let children know that it is ok for them to ask the doctor questions too.

•Help focus on the good – It is ok to reward children for a job well done with a sticker, sucker, trip to the park, special lunch, book, or special toy.

•Please do not threaten children that if they are not good the doctor will give them a shot. This only scares children and makes the doctor’s job more difficult.

Sometimes children are scared and cry no matter what tricks we try. Don’t worry if this happens to your child.

Pediatricians are used to these normal behaviors from children. In fact, if your pediatrician is a parent, at some point they have probably been in your shoes with their own child.

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and help reassure your child that everyone is there to help them be healthy.