It can be scary for a child to go through a health checkup or procedure. About 1 in 10 kids develop a fear of needles, for example. They may be fearful of the unknown, or they may have had a bad experience in the past. But with the proper preparation, it can be a lot less daunting for you and your child.
Here are some tips to help your child feel more comfortable during their next health checkup.
1. Talk to your child about what to expect
Before the checkup, sit down with your child and explain what will happen. If they’re old enough, you can show them pictures or videos of the procedure. This will help ease their anxiety and make them feel more prepared. Try to use simple, age-appropriate language. And if your child has any questions, answer them honestly.
It is important to note that you should not lie to your child about the procedure. This will only backfire and make them more anxious when they find out the truth. You should also avoid using phrases like “it won’t hurt” or “you’re being a big baby.” These statements can make your child feel like their feelings are not valid.
2. Bring them with you to your appointments
If possible, take your child with you to your health appointments. This way, they can see that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that the staff is just there to help. If they’re still too young or it’s not possible to bring them with you, consider having someone else come with you to wait in the lobby, like a grandparent or close family friend.
It would help if you also allowed them to listen to your conversation with your health provider during your appointments. For example, if you recently got dental implants, ask your dentist to explain the healing stages of dental implant treatment to you and your child. This will help them understand what’s happening and why you need the procedure.
Doing this can also help them feel more included and empowered. Show your child that you trust their judgment by involving them in your decision-making process.
3. Use distraction techniques
There are many ways to distract a child during a health checkup or procedure. You can give them a book or toy to focus on if they’re old enough. You can also try singing songs or playing games. For younger children, you can breastfeed or give them a pacifier.
You can also ask the health care provider if they offer distraction techniques. For example, many dental offices have TVs on the ceiling that patients can watch during their appointment. This may be enough to take your child’s mind off the procedure.
You only need to ensure they are calm and relaxed most of the time. You can do this by holding your child’s hand, talking to them in a soothing voice, or even rocking them in your arms. If they’re still anxious, you can ask the health care provider if they offer any sedation options.
4. Reward them afterward
After the checkup or procedure, it may be helpful to give your child a small reward. This could be a toy, a sticker, or even extra attention. This will help them associate the experience with something positive and make them more likely to cooperate in the future.
But don’t go overboard. Too much praise can make your child feel like they need to perform for you. Instead, focus on making them feel loved and supported. You want them to feel appreciated for their efforts, not pressured.
5. Seek professional help if needed
If your child is still anxious about health appointments, it may be time to seek professional help. For starters, you may consider making appointments with pediatric specialists. These providers are specifically trained to work with children and understand their needs.
You can also ask your child’s school for help. Many schools have counselors or social workers who can talk to your child about their anxiety. They may also be able to offer coping strategies or connect you with resources in the community.
Sometimes, your child may need medication to help them manage their anxiety. This is something you should discuss with your child’s health care provider. They can assess your child’s needs and make recommendations accordingly.
A therapist may also be able to help your child understand and manage their anxiety. This is a good option if you want to explore the root cause of your child’s anxiety and help them develop long-term coping strategies.
It’s normal for children to feel a little anxious about health appointments and procedures. But if your child is having a lot of anxiety, there are things you can do to help them feel more comfortable. Try to be understanding and patient with your child. Explain what’s going on in a way they can understand. And involve them in the decision-making process as much as possible.