I’ve procrastinated in writing this blog post for some months now as I just couldn’t seem to find the right words or title. The personal nature of this posts makes it a difficult one for me to write. But I really want to share my ideas for how to ease your child’s anxiety at the doctor’s office in hopes that it helps your child’s next visit to the doctor’s office be a more positive experience or at least go a little more smoothly.
Even though this post is titled “How to…” I want to make it clear that I am by no means an expert in this area. I’m just a mom whose child has had difficult experiences at the doctor’s office and these are some of the ways I have tried to ease his doctor’s office anxiety.
This post contains affiliate links.
How to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety at the Doctor’s Office
Luckily we don’t have to visit the doctor’s office too much, but it is always stressful when we do. It always includes lots of crying, screaming, flailing about and running away. I’m not sure if this is typical behavior of a three-year-old or maybe it is related to some sensory needs. Below are some of the ways I have tried to ease his anxiety about going to the doctor’s office.
Visit Doctor before appointment to say “hi”, even if you have seen this doctor since birth.
Before Caden’s last appointment we paid a visit to his pediatrician since it had been six months since our previous visit. I called the office about a week before our appointment to make sure it would be okay, if we just stopped by to say “hi”. They welcomed the idea!
Bring a gift for the office to create a positive experience.
On our visit to just say “hi” we brought a box of donuts with us for the office. If you don’t know this already, but doctor’s office staff love it when patients bring them treats! (I should know, I worked in a doctor’s office for a few years in high school and college.) The idea behind this is if you do something nice for someone, it makes you and your child feel good and creates a positive experience for your child, instead of a negative one they are familiar with in the doctor’s office. It also doesn’t hurt to butter up the office staff before your visit. 😉
Get a tour of the office before the appointment, even if you have been before.
While we were at the office to say “hi”, the doctor invited us back to where the exam rooms are to take a look around. I was hoping we would be able to take a little tour as I knew it would be helpful, but I didn’t want to ask too much of a busy pediatrician. But it really doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you feel your child would really benefit from it. Luckily for us, this pediatrician is amazing and knew just what we needed! I really love her for that!
Take photos of office tour & create photo album to look through while talking about the upcoming appointment.
Now this is a suggestion that you, for sure need to ask about before taking any pictures. I had this idea, but really wasn’t sure if it would be legal, so I didn’t ask. But if your child would really benefit from this kind of activity, then it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Create a social story about visiting the doctor.
This is a similar idea to using photos of the doctor’s office, but instead you could draw some simple pictures. I’ve never created a social story, but I know many parents find them super helpful for situations like this. Here is some more information on social stories from The National Autistic Society.
Read some books about going to the doctors.
This method has always been helpful for Caden. Below you will find some suggestions with affiliate links.
Another method I used to help Caden overcome some of his anxiety about going to the doctor’s office was to get him a toy doctor’s kit and playing “doctor” with him. He loves to pretend to be the doctor and fix me or his stuffed animals up. And then we switch roles and he becomes the patient and I’m the doctor. This has helped him to learn what the doctor’s “tools” do and that they don’t hurt.
Get your child’s height and weight measurements at home before the appointment.
This is one of the most helpful things I have come up with and do before every doctor’s visit now. If you can find a playful way to get your child to stand on your scale at home you will relieve some of that stress on yourself to try to get your child to cooperate at the doctor’s office and therefore ease some of the anxiety in your child. You should still encourage your child to get weighed and measured at the doctor’s office, but if they strongly fight you on it, no big deal, you have an approximate measurement the doctor can go by if need be.
Create a check list of what happens at the doctor’s office as a visual for your child to know what comes next.
While chatting with my friend Cassie of 3 Dinosaurs about this post she mentioned that she uses this method with her daughters. You can include events like:
- Check in
- Play quietly in the waiting room
- Follow nurse into exam room
- Get weighed on the scale, etc.
Print this handout from A Sensory Life.
This website is a great resource for parents and teachers of kids who struggle with sensory needs. This print out is full of tips and suggestions for doctors with patients who have sensory processing issues. I’m not sure if Caden’s anxiety is normal for a three-year old or if it is related to his sensory needs, but I plan on printing this out, highlighting the tips that would be most helpful for Caden and giving it to our new doctor to read and keep in his file.
Does your child suffer from some anxiety at the doctor’s office?
Please come share on my Facebook page some tips you’ve found helpful.
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Ashley Moore says
Such great ideas! We usually try to role play, and it helps a ton! The doctor was amazed when my 3 year old sat still for a blood pressure measurement!
Cassie @ 3Dinosaurs.com says
Great post! I love how well it turned out.
These are some great, easy, and effective ways to help your child deal with the anxiety of going to the doctor. For my son is was the dentist but all of your ideas can be applied to that situation as well. Thank you for sharing these.
These are great!! Definitely pinning! My youngest always has a melt down as soon as we walk in and when the doctor walks in it’s even worse 🙁 Thanks for sharing!!
Kat @ World for Learning says
Excellent tips and ideas for an issue so many children experience. For mine, dealing with any type of prick or shot is the absolute worst. What makes it extra hard is how much they work themselves up BEFORE anything happens. Thinking some of your tips above might help with that anxiety. Thanks for sharing!
Tyler Meredith says
I like what this article mentions about creating a checklist of what happens. I think this could help my kids, as they often get worried when they don’t know what to do. I’ll have to make sure I do this for the next time I need to take them to the doctor.