Helping your toddler feel comfortable going to the doctor

Never mind the tank full of fish or the waiting room full of toys. Despite the staff’s effort to make the office look inviting, eight out of ten toddlers would agree: going to the doctor can be pretty scary stuff.

There are many reasons Baby may feel apprehensive about a trip to the doctor. For starters, the office is full of sights and sounds that Baby doesn’t see or hear that often, as well as a number of strangers interacting with her throughout the appointment. As she gets older, she may also begin to remember having less-than-fun experiences  previous appointments, like feeling ill or the pain from having to get a shot. Couple these factors with long wait times, and it’s no wonder visiting the doctor can be a stressful outing for a toddler.

While doctor’s visits can be intimidating, they’re also essential for maintaining Baby’s health. Here are some tips for helping her feel more at ease during her next medical appointment.

  • Get a pretend doctor kit: What better way to make the doctor’s office seem more fun than through play? These kits come equipped with all sorts of goodies: blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, syringes, thermometers, and bandages to heal the boo-boos. Let Baby practice giving you a check-up to get her more familiar with the tools that will be used at her own appointment.
  • Talk about what to expect: If you’re playing with Baby with a doctor kit, be sure to point out what each item does as you play. Let her know that the stethoscope checks if her heart sounds nice and strong, for example, and let her give you a pretend shot. It’s important to give her a realistic idea of what to expect, too, so resist the urge to tell her that it “didn’t hurt a bit.” Instead, say it felt like a little pinch, but was over before you knew it. If you don’t go the route where you act out a doctor’s visit, talk the trip through with Baby before you go, so she knows what to expect.
  • Books and more: There are plenty of books about going to the doctor that are geared specifically toward children, as well as television programs that can help Baby learn what to expect. Seeking out material with her favorite character, if possible, can help to keep her interest. Seeing Elmo at the doctor, for example, could help Baby realize she can do it, too!
  • Bring a security item: Preparation leading up to the visit isn’t the only way to help ensure that the appointment will be a success – you can also help Baby feel more comfortable while you’re there. There’s no question that you’re her greatest source of comfort, but bringing a familiar stuffed animal or blanket can also help her feel safe. Offer to let her hold it during the appointment, and snuggle up again after to regain a sense of relaxation.

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