Does your toddler throw a tantrum or become really upset when they need to see the doctor?
As upsetting as it can be, it’s actually not unusual at all for toddlers to develop a fear of going to the doctor. This is because they begin to remember what happens when they’re in the doctor’s office.
Think about it from their point of view. All they know is when they go to the doctor they get prodded and injected and they have absolutely no idea why. They may remember what happens, but they don’t know why it happens. So, understandably they start to associate going to the doctor as a bad experience. Toddler’s don’t always have the verbal skills to say why they don’t like the doctor, so they do the only thing they can to express their feelings – cry or scream.
The question is, how can you ease their fears and make it less traumatic for both them and you?
Talk About The Impending Visit
As mentioned above, one of the main reasons toddler’s start to fear the doctor is because they don’t understand why they’re being prodded and examined. So, explaining why you’re taking them to the doctor can be a great way to prepare them for the experience.
Of course, this isn’t going to help them get over the pain or shock of injections if they need them, but it will help them to understand more about what is happening. You can also talk about the things you’re going to do after the doctor visit, giving them something to look forward to.
Then, if they start to get upset in the doctor’s office, remind them of what you’re doing afterwards.
If they are getting injections, prepare them for it by letting them know, but don’t make it out to be a big deal. Instead, stick to the facts, that they may feel a little pinch but it will be over in a few seconds. If you act like it isn’t a big deal, your toddler won’t be as nervous.
Inform The Doctor If Your Toddler’s Fears Are Severe
Even adults hate going to the doctor, so some level of fear is to be expected. However, if your toddler is overly fearful, it’s worth talking about it with the doctor. They will be used to dealing with fearful children. If they know your child is scared, they’re more likely to do things to ease your little one’s fears.
They may be more patient, or offer toys or something to distract your toddler while they assess them. Just making them aware of the problem can make a massive difference.
Consider Switching Doctors
If you’ve tried everything but nothing seems to be easing your toddler’s fears, it could be the doctor themselves that’s the problem. Consider switching doctor’s and seeing whether it makes a difference. You don’t need to switch clinics, just ask to see a different doctor he next time your toddler is due to go.
Just like adults, toddlers may prefer one doctor over another. So, give them the option of a different doctor and monitor their reaction.
Never Make Unrealistic Promises
It’s common for parents to try to ease their toddlers fears by telling them things like “I promise it won’t hurt”. However, if you do tell them this and it turns out it does hurt, they’re going to have a hard time trusting you again.
There’s also the possibility you’re putting pain into your child’s mind as they may not have even considered the possibility it might hurt. So, avoiding mentioning anything about pain is recommended!
Enjoy A Little Role Play
Toddlers can learn a lot about life and social situations through roleplay. Therefore, it’s a great idea to play out a doctor’s visit scenario. By using their favorite toys, you can go through what’s likely to happen at a doctor’s visit and see how they react.
Give them medical equipment toys so they can play with them themselves and practice making their toys “better”. This will help build up doctors as a positive presence, there to help make people feel better.
While it isn’t guaranteed roleplaying will stop your child being fearful of the doctor, in time it can help to reduce the fear.
Get Somebody Else To Take Them
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint why, sometimes toddlers react much differently when somebody else takes them to the doctor. So, ask your partner or a family member to take them and see how they get on.
It could be the simple fact that all of their negative doctor experiences have occurred while they are with you. So, having a different adult around could help break the negative association.
Good Old-Fashioned Bribery
Although bribery should definitely be limited, it can work wonders when it comes to doctor visits. Take something your child really likes and then give it to the doctor to give to your toddler. After a few visits, your toddler will start to associate going to the doctor with getting a positive reward.
Ideally, the treat should be given at the end of the visit. However, if your toddler tends to scream right from the beginning, it’s often worth letting the doctor give them something there and then.
Wait It Out
Sometimes, the only solution is to remember that this fearful behavior will disappear in time. It’s extremely common for toddlers to hate going to the doctors. You can rest assured yours isn’t the only one who screams and cries from the minute they enter the waiting room!
As frustrating, embarrassing and upsetting as it is, like many challenging behaviors, this too shall pass.
Overall, the above are some of the best, tried and tested methods to help ease a toddler’s fear of the doctor. Do you have any additional tips that worked for you? Do us all a favor and share them below!