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.
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.
Validate your child’s feelings and let them know you’re sometimes anxious about going to the doctor, too.
Read books about going to the doctor and role play using a toy doctor’s kit before the appointment to help the child better understand what to expect during the visit.
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.