Toddlers and fear of the doctor’s office

Looking through a toddler’s eyes, it’s easy to see why a trip to the doctor can be a pretty scary outing. For starters, it’s an unfamiliar environment for most little ones, who may have only gone in for regular checkups, which fall far enough apart that it isn’t a part of their regular routines, and when they have been there more often, it’s generally because they’ve been sick, which isn’t a very good association, and as their memory gets better, they can also better remember unpleasant things like shots, evaluations, or illnesses.

Finally, at this stage, many toddlers are also apprehensive when it comes to strangers, and there are plenty of new faces meeting and greeting Baby at their appointments. So while the fear is an understandable response, it’s up to you to keep them at ease when a doctor’s visit can’t be avoided. Here are some tips for helping them get ready for (and get through) their next visit.

  • Read books: Helping Baby know what to expect before going to the appointment is a great way to let them become more confident and prepared, and books are a great tool for teaching the ins and outs of doctor’s visits. You may even act out some of the scenes in the book, letting Baby play the doctor while you play the role of the patient, to show it’s not so scary.
  • Be present: When you’re taking Baby to the doctor, making sure they have your full attention will help them feel more secure and supported, no matter how they feel about the doctor’s office itself. Reassure them by snuggling with them as you wait, and answering any questions they have leading up to the appointment. Just knowing you’re there will help ease their fears.
  • Remain calm: Your toddler is a little sponge – they soaks up the emotions of those around them. This is especially true when it comes to you, since you’re one of the people they trusts most. Keep calm and collected before and during the appointment, and they will be more inclined to follow suit.
  • Be honest: Staying honest with Baby about what the appointment will entail, and trying not to sugarcoat your answers too much will help them feel secure in your reassurances not just at this appointment, but at other times moving forward. If you know they will be getting a shot, for example, resist the urge to tell them there will be no shots or that they won’t hurt a bit. Instead, try telling them shots help keep them healthy, and it’ll be just a little pinch before it’s over.
  • Offer rewards: Ending the outing on a positive note by offering a small reward, such as a special treat or gift, can help put a happy spin on the day. After all, Baby deserves a prize for a job well done!

The doctor’s office is a fairly normal fear for toddlers and young children, but since Baby will be going in for checkups regularly all their life, learning not to be afraid will only help them out as they grow.

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