If you’ve been the parent of a child who has screamed their head off during a doctor or dentist appointment, you’re not alone. Some children are terrified of needles or other medical procedures. Parenting in that moment is tough. Read our 8 positive ways to help. Hang in there! Parenting really is a rollercoaster!
1. Consider when to tell your child they need to visit the doctor or dentist. Avoid telling them weeks or even days beforehand, but perhaps leave it to a day or two before the appointment. When you tell your child, be calm and reassuring. Explain why they need the appointment….to stay well and healthy.
2. Avoid lying to your child that the procedure won’t hurt. Hiding information about what is going to happen could cause resentment, fear, or trust issues. Talk to your child matter-of-factly about what is going to happen. Say something like, “You have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. You’ll be getting a small injection. I just wanted to let you know.” Be sure to answer any questions she might have and be honest. “Yes, it might hurt or pinch a little, but it will be over fast.”
3. The day of the appointment, be organised. Make sure you aren’t running late or rushing. Be happy and relaxed. Consider arranging to bring a friend, partner or family member. Keep a drink and snacks in your bag. A lollypop is a good idea.
4. If you child has a special toy, blankie or dummy, bring it along. Depending on the age of your child, consider other forms of distraction such as an ipad or photos on your phone.
5. Ring ahead and let the doctor or dentist know that your child may be anxious. Ask if they have a Buzzy on hand or bring your own. Buzzy is a small distraction device used throughout hospitals, dentists and medical clinics to help people cope with needle phobia. Read about Buzzy here.
6. During the procedure act relaxed, positive and supportive. It is well known that your behaviour influences the amount of pain and distress your child feels. Your child will pick up on your anxiety. Be supportive, but not excessive. Research suggests humour and distraction tend to decrease distress.
7. The simple art of distraction is a powerful tool. Distract your child by playing 'Spot the item in the room', or count the pictures on the wall. Take a distraction game with you such as Buzzy Distraction Cards.
8. Keep offering praise and encouragement during and after the procedure.