7 (really useful) tips to help kids overcome fear of the doctor

Child scared of going to doctor's office

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us understand what to expect when we visit with a primary care physician. But for children? The process can fraught with uncertainties and even fear.
Still, primary care visits are an important part of helping to ensure a child is on a healthy path toward adulthood.
“The goals of a primary care visits include ensuring the child is reaching developmental milestones, to administer vaccines and to address any concerns the parents may have,” said Dr. Heber Watson III, a resident physician with Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road.

Teddy bear clinic coming to Myrtle Beach on Jan. 21

The fun, educational (and no-cost) event is meant to help demistify the doctor's office for children. Learn more by going here.

He says parents use a wide variety of approaches to help encourage their children at the doctor’s office. Some parents, for example, are inclined to use the promise of a reward or treat. The approach, Dr. Watson says, might work for some children and for some parenting styles. However, other techniques can also help children become more comfortable when seeing a doctor. Here’s a look at seven strategies to consider:

1. Set expectations

Be clear about what’s going to happen or not going to happen during the appointment. Give your child as specific information as possible. Rather than telling your child the doctor will give you a checkup, give details about each step of the process.

2. Open lines of communication

Make sure your child has the opportunity to ask questions before the appointment. Let your child work through his or her anxiety by talking about the upcoming appointment.

3. Empathize

Validate your child’s feelings and let them know you’re sometimes anxious about going to the doctor, too.

4. Prepare

Read books about going to the doctor, role play using a toy doctor’s kit before the appointment or consider going to events like an upcoming teddy bear clinic hosted by Dr. Watson’s practice, located at 4320 Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, a day when public schools are closed.
The goal of the event is to help children become familiar with the people and equipment they will see during their own visits as a patient, helping them feel more at ease with the process and environment.
Kids will bandage teddy bear boo-boos, take their furry friends’ vital signs and even exercise with their stuffed comrades. There’s no cost to attend the clinic, which is open to the general public and will also offer feature no-cost flu shots for children.
Kids will receive free teddy bears (while supplies last) or they can bring their own doll or stuffed toy from home
“Teddy bear clinics are a great way to help children become more at ease during their care visits,” Dr. Watson says. “It’s an opportunity to build familiarity in a very low-pressure, fun atmosphere.”

5. Stay calm

Keep your own emotions in check as kids can pick up on a parent’s anxiety.

6. Stay close

Allow your child to sit on your lap during the exam. Watson says in his practice that’s perfectly acceptable.

7. Bring a comfort item

Bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal or toy for comfort/distraction during the appointment.

Interested in learning more abou the upcoming teddy bear clinic? Call Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road at 843-652-8440. Registration is not required.

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