The First Visit: Preparing Your Child for a Doctor Visit
Preparing a young child
At some point, most children will develop a healthy fear of going to the doctor. A pretend doctor’s visit a day or two before the real visit is an excellent way to allay some of these fears. Using a play medical kit, role play the entire visit. First, have your child be the patient and go through each step in the visit (see below for a description of our typical well care visit).
Take pretend measurements of the weight and height, pretend to look in your child’s ears and throat, listen to the heart with a pretend stethoscope, and practice taking deep breaths for the lung exam. When you get to the vaccines, give a light pinch for each of the vaccines. Take a moment to tell your child that the doctor will examine his/her private parts. As a part of their job, they need to examine the whole body. Let them know that “no one can see their private area, unless you and your child say that it is alright”. If your child exhibits heightened fear around any part of the exam, do not dwell on it just move on to the next section of the visit.
Once you have completed the exam, switch roles and let your child be the doctor. This is usually very empowering for a child. If your child is a little older (6 – 8 years old typically), discuss any parts of the exam that the child does not seem to understand.
It is also helpful to read books about going to the doctor. These books allow kids to learn about the doctors visit without the anxiety of focusing on their trip to the doctor. There are many excellent books but we suggest you choose books with your child’s favorite character.
Finally, talk to your child about ways to make the visit comfortable. He may want to bring a favorite stuffed animal who could be examined as well. Sometimes, it is helpful to tell him that he can have the exam done on your lap if he prefers. Have a simple treat to look forward to at the end of the doctor’s visit. Do not use this treat as a threat if your child becomes anxious during the visit.
At the end of the visit, let your child know that you are proud that they did a great job during the visit. Also, ask if they have any questions now that the visit is done.
See you soon and good luck.
Preparing an adolescent
Please let your child know that they will have a private time with the doctor and that anything said during this time will remain between him/her and the physician. Reassure your child that they can discuss anything with you, their parent, but this is an excellent opportunity if they need some more adult advice or support.
Also, please take a business card from the front and let your child know that the doctor is always available if they have a question or problem. Similarly, let them know that any conversation will be kept in confidence.
Finally, please alert your adolescent that we will conduct a confidential depression and substance abuse screens starting at 14 years. The results of these will remain between the child and the physician.