When my daughter was an infant, going to the doctor wasn’t such a big deal. Once we went for her 18 month checkup, things changed for the worse. She was terrified and didn’t want anyone to look at her much less touch her. She was painfully shy anyway so this only made things worse. My pediatrician told me that most kids start fearing the doctor at their 18 month and 2 year checkups, especially. If your child is experiencing this or you just want to get ahead of the game, there are some ways to help soothe your toddler’s fear of the doctor.
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One of the best ways to ease your child’s fear is by letting them pretend to be the doctor. I think the little pretend medical kits they have are perfect for this. You can show them what the doctor might do and then let them do it to one of their dolls or stuffed animals. Explain what all of the doctor’s instruments do and show them that it won’t hurt and there is nothing to be afraid of.
Give them Advance Warning
Start letting your child know about a week in advance that they will be going to see the doctor soon. You can sound very excited and countdown the days together. This may work for some kids and not others. You know your child best so if they get anxiety you might not want to mention it until you are actually heading out the door.
Get a Special Treat Afterward
Let your child know that after the doctor, you will get ice cream or some other kind of favorite treat. This will help associate the doctor with something fun and give them something to look forward to. Make it a routine for every doctor’s visit.
There are a bunch of great books available that are geared toward toddlers and their doctor visits. They help explain what the doctor will do and that they shouldn’t be afraid. I like the Daniel Tiger and Elmo books. My daughter loves these characters so getting to see them not be afraid of the doctor helps her understand that she has nothing to fear either.
Bring a Snack
Bring your child’s favorite snack like crackers or a cookie and let the doctor be the one to give it to them. You can also use something like stickers or a favorite toy. This will help them learn to trust the doctor and even be more cooperative if they have something else to focus on.
Bring What Calms Them
If you know that your child will be getting a shot, bring something that will help calm them down after it is over. I would always bring some apple juice and my daughter’s pacifier. She would get so upset but these would really help to calm her down. Bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, whatever works.
Get to the Appointment Early
You don’t want to be running late and be rushing and all frazzled when you get there. You want to be calm so that your child won’t be nervous or anxious. This will give them time to get used to a new place, see that there are other children around, and even explore a little.
Make Waiting Fun
You can flip through the books and magazines that are in the room but just make sure to wash your hands afterwards because you never know who was touching them before you. Most pediatrician offices have fun decor so I like to ask her questions about what she sees. We usually get a room that has fish and bubbles on the walls so she goes around and “pops” all of the bubbles.
Bring a Doll or Stuffed Animal
My daughter has a little Elmo that we take with us to her appointments. She wants the doctor to do everything on Elmo before she does it on her. This makes the appointment a little longer but the doctor is always patient and just goes with it. This really helps to put her at ease.
Offer Lots of Praise
During the appointment, let them know how big they are getting and how exciting that is. When you get home, let them hear you telling your significant other about how well they did and all the great things the doctor said. This will make them proud about their visit.
These are just some things I have done with my daughter that have made our doctor visits a lot easier. If you have any tips for how you soothe your toddler’s fear of the doctor please let us know your tricks!