As a mother of two young children, believe me I understand how challenging doctors visits can be for children. The doctors wear different uniforms and carry strange equipment, there care unfamiliar people in the waiting room and with current hygiene practices, people may be wearing masks which can be confronting for children. This combination can cause your child to feel anxious, worried and even scared at the thought of visiting the doctors.
Helping your child to feel at ease at the doctors is so important. Going to the doctors is something that is required all throughout our whole life – from treating viruses and illnesses, for routine check ups as well as vaccinations, the more comfortable we can help our children become with the process, the easier it will be.
So how can we help our child to prepare for their doctors visit? Read on to learn my tried and tested top tips!
- Talk About the Visit with Your Child:
Let your child know a few days in advance that they will be visiting the doctors. This gives your child time to prepare themselves in their own space and time. Mark the doctors visit on the calendar and count down the days each day. Talk about who will go with your child, who they will see and what you will do after the visit (my kids always make me take them for icecream!)
2. Go Prepared To The Visit:
In our household, we are all morning people. In fact, when our kids were toddlers, our mantra was ‘if it doesn’t happen in the morning, it just doesn’t happen!’. Keep this theme in mind when you book your appointment. If possible, schedule the visit for your child’s optimum time of day – avoid nap times, meal times and peak traffic times like school pick up time.
The other way to be prepared is to pack a bag that will help your child feel comfortable whilst in the waiting room. Collect your child’s favourite toy or activity, a book to read together, a small snack and a cool drink. Having their familiar items close by will further help your child to feel at ease.
3. Role Play Your Doctors Visit
Role play (or ‘Pretend Play’) is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the procedure of the going to the doctors. You can use a pretend doctors kit or repurpose some household items and set up a ‘doctors surgery’ in your loungeroom. Have your child choose their stuffed animals that need check-ups. Talk about the equipment that you are using and why (e.g. ‘we can use a torch to look in your mouth’). Be sure to have your child take turns at being both the doctor and the patient.
4. Read a Social Script with Your Child
Social Scripts (sometimes known as social narratives) are simple stories that can help your child learn new social skills for a particular activity or situation. The stories use simple, positive language and usually have pictures or photos to go with it. Social Scripts have wonderful evidence behind them as being an effective way to teach children new skills and reduce anxiety and worry in new situations.
A social script for going to the doctors can help your child to:
- Understand the steps involved in going to the doctors in their own time and space.
- Refer to the event whenever they need to, helping reduce anxiety around the unknowns of the event
- Identify aspects that will help them to feel comfortable, e.g. identifying what comfort toy they will bring and identifying who will take them.
Further to that, a social script that includes your child’s OWN DETAILS can be an even MORE effective way to teach these new skills. Through personalising the story through drawing the toy they will take, and drawing the person that will go with them, this can help your child attach more meaning to the social script and further internalise the messages.
The good news is that you don’t have to create your own editable social script! You can explore this one that I have created HERE.
Going to the doctors can be confronting and anxiety-provoking for children but through putting some strategies in place, we can help our child to feel safe, secure and comfortable during these situations.