When Young Children Are Afraid of Doctors

As babies and young children become more aware of their surroundings, it is only natural that certain unfamiliar places, faces and situations will make them nervous, uncomfortable or downright terrified.

No one enjoys medical check-ups, tests or vaccinations, but for our little ones the sight of people in white coats, in strange rooms, filled with medical paraphernalia, can be the stuff of nightmares.

Unfortunately, to keep our tots in tiptop health we can’t avoid these medical appointments. Instead, we need to offer comfort, reassurance and support until our tiny tykes gradually learn to trust that medical professionals are there to help.

Below are some of our favourite tips & tricks for helping young children to trust doctors and feel less stressed and afraid during medical visits.

  • Ensure that your child is accompanied by a parent or a regular guardian that the child trusts and is familiar with. Parents or caregivers need to show that they are comfortable in the situation, that they trust the medical professionals, and that they are not stressed or worried by the situation. Children really do follow by example.
  • Don’t belittle or trivialise your child’s fears. Rather than telling your child not to be silly, or that the needle is only tiny, try instead to validate their fears in a supportive way. “I know injections aren’t much fun, but it will be over as quick as a blink!” Perhaps distract your child by telling them to wiggle their toes or talk about something fun you can do together afterwards.
  • If your child has gone through a particularly stressful time during a visit, such as several vaccinations or treatment for an injury or illness, it is well worth explaining that future visits will not always be that way.
  • Maintain contact with your child during any examinations, such as holding their hand or sitting them on your lap if possible. This will be reassuring for them, especially if they can see that you trust the doctor/nurse and that you are at ease. Perhaps allow your little one to choose which order they would like their heartbeat/eyes/ears to be checked.
  • Familiarise your child with medical topics and examinations through role-playing games and stories. Perhaps get a toy medical kit and help your child to give checkups to their favourite dolls and teddies. It may also help to let your child bring their favourite toy ‘companion’ along, so they can get ‘checked over’ too.
  • Even if your child was not able to fully control their anxiety during a medical visit, that doesn’t mean you can’t reward them with something fun. A sticker, a lolly or a visit to the park will help your little one to forget the fear that they were feeling and to associate the experience with more positive

Our Cherry Bridge Station centres in NSW follow strict government requirements for childhood immunisation. More information on these requirements is available from NSW Government – Health. You can also check the NSW immunisation schedule and a list of the vaccines here.

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