Children of the world: Doctors are not trying to hurt you, so please stop freaking out when your responsible, concerned parents take you in for a routine doctor’s visit.
It sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? If you’re there for a well visit, all is well! Mommy rejoices! And if you’re there for a sick visit, the doctor will figure out what’s wrong and make you feel better soon. Another reason for Mommy to rejoice!
Unfortunately, kids don’t see it that way. At all. And that’s why they tend to become screaming, flailing banshees at the mere sight of the poor pediatrician.
You can’t really blame them, can you? Put yourself in your child’s shoes.
You’re used to people fawning all over you and smiling the dopiest of smiles when you do pretty much anything. So you go to hang out with this dude (or dudette) who you expect to do the same. At first everything seems normal, and then he squeezes your belly a little too hard, he jabs a cold metal thing in your ear and then he—gasp!—sticks you with a sharp, pointy object! Ouch!
With toddlers, you can do something proactive—and it doesn’t have anything to do with candy, bribery or dark magic.
Of course your little one is freaking out. There’s a point in that first year when babies start to remember. They know what might happen at a doctor’s visit, and they want to make sure it doesn’t. Mommy, someone, anyone: HEAR ME, AND HELP ME!!!
So, what can you do about it?
If you have an infant, you’re unfortunately going to have to grin, bear it and get through the doctor’s visit as best you can. Singing or distracting your little one with a favorite toy can work wonders, and if you’re breastfeeding, employing Mommy’s magical boobies is the best way to soothe a screaming baby after a shot.
But with toddlers, you can do something proactive—and it doesn’t have anything to do with candy, bribery or dark magic.
What you’re going to do is make a doctor’s visit fun. Yep, you read that right: FUN.
Here’s how to do it in 4 easy steps….
This is perfect for even the tiniest of toddlers—for a doctor’s visit and beyond. But first, a word of warning: A lot of kiddie doctor’s kits have a “3+” age advisory slapped on them. Some of the toys in the kit might have small parts that could be choking hazards, so take those out and put them away for when your toddler is older. That said, the stethoscopes and reflex tools are usually fine for kids of any age. I bought my son a kit similar to this one from Fisher-Price and particularly loved it because of its carrying case. Obviously it’s great for when you’re on the go, but the tote also makes for easy and compact clean-up so you don’t lose half the kit within a week of buying it. (Please tell me I’m not the only one that happens to.)
Step 2: Play with it at home in the weeks or months before your next doctor’s visit.
Take turns being the doctor and the patient, and also introduce your child’s favorite doll into some of the play. You can expand upon this idea with doctor’s costumes, too. Aside from getting your child comfortable with the concept of the doctor, it’s also a great opportunity to do some imaginative play and—who knows—maybe inspire your little one to become a doctor someday! (Hey, a mom can dream.)
Step 3: Read books about visiting the doctor.
Sure, we know what to expect when we head out for a doctor’s visit, but our children don’t. It’s so easy for adults to take that knowledge for granted, and that’s where we get into big trouble. I’m always a huge fan of books to help with this. Some suggestions:
• Daniel Visits the Doctor (Have I told you lately how much Daniel Tiger helps me with so many things? If not, here are a few other reasons that I love that pants-less little tiger—a lot!)
• The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor
• Biscuit Visits the Doctor
• Doc McStuffins: Time for Your Checkup!
Step 4: Bring the doctor’s kit to the appointment.
This is the real clincher. For starters, your child will associate the set with happy memories. But even better, it will also provide a great distraction as she plays doctor with the actual doctor while being examined. Suddenly the focus is off whatever imagined horrors the doctor might inflict and is on her very important job…and on someone else making a fuss over her and her doctor skills. A shot might still lead to tears, but this will make the rest of the trip much more pleasant.
I tried this for the first time right before my son’s 2-year checkup, and I couldn’t believe the difference. He had been increasingly terrified of the doctor for months, and suddenly, he wasn’t just OK with the idea of going to the doctor—he actually started looking forward to going. He’d ask me to take him to see the doctor on random days and would pout when I said it wasn’t time for an appointment.
Three years later, this is still a thing with him. He loves learning about his body and checking out his growth stats, as well as telling his doctor buddy about all the cool things that are going on in his life. It’s nothing short of a miracle. Well, a miracle and an excellent strategy.
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