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Fear, Shots And The Doctor

Posted by Patience on October 27, 2009 at 10:28 AM in Connecting with kidsParenting tips
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in his arms

We arrived at our family doctor yesterday for a regular check-up only to find people and small children waiting outside the door. The office was so packed with sick kids, the receptionist asked me to wait in my car and she would call me when they were ready. Yowsers! I felt for all involved. The staff was patient but looked a little haggard, the parents had wrinkled brows and the kids just wanted to be held.

"It seems like winter came early this year." Our pediatrician said. With all this flu talk and sickness going around, it might be good to have a few things in our parenting back pocket for such a time.

Here are a few ideas for your trip to the doctor:

1. Keep kids busy. Put tiny journals and color pencils in your bag for the office visit wait. Bubbles, stickers and tiny plastic animals can distract a worried mind. Play thumb wars and twenty questions with older kids.

2. Turn off the TV. The news can be quite scary for kids, heck, for me too. H1N1 news is a hot topic but little ears can be spared from the latest statistic. Information can pour in even when kids don't appear to be listening.

3. Talk straight, but be positive. Let your kids know what is going to happen (depends on the age/personality about how much information), and then remind them of your presence and support.

4. Let your child have as much control as possible. Let your child ask their own questions to your care provider. Introduce them to all staff that will be caring for them. Tiny decisions like what color band-aid they want and what you should do/play after the experience can help when they are feeling so powerless.

Do you have any tips for helping kids deal with the doctor, shots or general anxiety about medical care? Let us know in the comments.

Check out Sid The Science Kid too! He has a new episode about getting shots. This is also an awesome guide to how to talk to your child about going to the doctor and dentist.


Libby writes...

Tip #1 above is pretty important. I never pack things to bring to our doctor's office because there are always (new to them) toys to play with and books to read. Last time we went, however, everything had been removed due to concerns about spreading germs.

Jim writes...

Idea #1 is a biggie. Idea #3, I think, is just as important. In my experience, if a child knows what to expect, her anxiety level decreases exponentially.

About idea #4, though -- what age are you thinking? This apparently depends heavily on the child's temperament/personality. If I tried to introduce my 4-year old to any of the nurses or assistants in the doctor's office, she'd be bawling to leave within 30 seconds. And suggesting that she actually speak to an adult who she's not familiar with, let alone ask questions? That would have the opposite effect on her, I think. Choosing her own band-aid and sticker afterward, tho, is always a good idea.

If you take your child to a pediatrician for shots, I would hope the doctor and staff have the kind of personality and demeanor that enables them to talk to children, calm their fears, put them at ease... otherwise, I'd wonder why they chose to work with children to begin with.

And I would definitely suggest taking young children to their regular doctors for flu shots or anything shot-like... if at all possible, try to avoid taking them to the drug store, or your place of employment, or some other unfamiliar place. Chances are your child is at least *somewhat* familiar with his/her own doctor, and the pediatrician and staff interact with children every day; if anyone can calm a child approaching the sight of a needle, it's these folks.

kids water shoes writes...

I am all to familiar with this. I just went through this with my two children and when I am sitting there, I wish I could take all the pain myself.


Jess writes...

"I know this is hard, and I know you can do this!" is a phrase we often use. (Note use of *and*, not *but*, which serves to validate feelings rather than to dismiss them.

We've read the book Lions Aren't Afraid of Shots over here many times. Our own pediatrician has some great tricks for distracting or soothing. One involves using an alcohol wipe on a bit of skin on the arm (not the location of the shot) and having the child or an adult blow on it. The cool feeling distracts the child and also apparently actually reduces the perception of pain.

Recently we've also been talking about worry and how worrying and worrying about something can make it feel worse.

I agree with giving as much control as possible! (And Jim, note that she did say "as possible".)

Ben writes...

I work as a medical assistant and see this all the time. If you are as well, it's good to try to make people feel as comfortable as possible.

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