Easing your child’s fear of the doctor

When it’s time to see the doctor for a checkup or vaccinations, many children feel anxious and scared of the unknown.

Rosvida San Gabriel, MD
Rosvida San Gabriel, MD

“We want our kids to feel safe and happy at all times, and that includes when we have to take them to the doctor,” says Rosvida San Gabriel,
MD, pediatrician at Riverside Medical Group Pediatric Specialists, Bradley. “There are some things you can do to help them feel more comfortable with their pediatrician and their office experience,” Dr. Gabriel says.

Try these tips to guide your children through doctor visits and vaccinations and ease their—and your—anxiety.

Tell them what to expect.
When talking with your children about doctor visits, don’t be vague. Children may not understand words like “checkup” or “vaccinations.” Explain unknown terminology and give specific details about what will happen when they get to the office. Have them pick out a favorite book or toy to bring with them to keep them occupied.

Be honest.
Be open about what you do and don’t know. Otherwise, your child may feel betrayed and lose trust in you. Use kid-friendly explanations. You might say, “The shot may sting, but it will go away,” or, “Nobody likes getting shots, but they keep us healthy.”

Allow them to express themselves.
Don’t ignore your children when they speak up about their fears. Rather, help them articulate why they’re afraid to go to the doctor. Naming their specific fears and feelings can go a long way to help children feel less worried.

Validate their feelings.
Never scold your child for being afraid or call the doctor visit no big deal. Instead, say something like, “I get it, because I sometimes get worried before I go to the doctor. But the doctor helps keep us healthy and strong.”

Be aware of your own anxiety.
Pay attention to your own feelings. Are you anxious? If so, managing your fears will help calm your child. If necessary, arrange to ask the doctor delicate questions when your child isn’t in the room or before or after the appointment.

Vaccinations can be an especially anxiety-filled time for children and their parents. During vaccination visits, hold and comfort your child, remain calm, look at them and smile. Take deep breaths with them.

Calm and caring
Find a Riverside Medical Group pediatrician who is the right fit for your family at Riverside.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services