We all know that visiting the doctor is a tough part of childhood. We want our kids to go into appointments having all of the resources that they need for a positive experience. Chelsea Yoo, child life specialist, is sharing some of her top tips to prepare your kids for upcoming medical appointments. All of her tips shared below can be applied to kids of all ages, even toddlers! Keep reading to learn more!
1. Be honest
When your child has an upcoming medical appointment, the key to a positive experience is honesty! About a day or two before the appointment, tell your child when they are going to the appointment and what they might expect. If your child is going to have a shot, let them know.
I know, it can feel hard and they might be nervous. But, here is what we know: when we are honest with kids about what is happening, they learn to trust that there will not be any surprises. We are teaching them that nothing is so scary that we can’t even tell them about it! They go into the appointment feeling empowered.
2. Use play practice
Play is how children learn, communicate, and explore the world around them. Grab a play doctor kit and let your child explore without any interruption. Then, use those play materials and rehearse what is going to happen. If you have a baby or toddler, letting them just explore the materials in a safe way can really help increase their familiarity, which makes appointments easier!
3. Read books
Books are a great opportunity to give your child more information and allow time for them to ask questions. There are some really great books about visiting the doctor that can help set the scene! Below are some of our favorite books about visiting the doctor!
4. Make a plan
If your child needs a shot or there is a part of the appointment where you think it might be hard, have a plan! What can your child do during that time to help their body relax? Some great options are to hold a favorite toy, look at a light-up toy, look at an eye spy book, or sing a song. Having your child choose their plan helps them feel in control. During your play, be sure to practice what they will do to feel calm. Rehearsal helps to build confidence! Below are some of our favorite light-up toys and eye spy books that can easily fit in your purse or diaper bag.
5. Stay calm
Children watch their parents to see how they should feel about certain experiences. Our job is to stay calm and steady as we talk, play, and go into the appointment.
Have an emergency bag. We know that medical visits aren’t always planned. Have a small bag ready to grab in an emergency. Pack an extra set of clothes for each child, a toy or two, a book and an extra phone charger. When you have to leave quickly, you will be happy to have those few extra things to grab easily! We like this foldable zippered duffle bag with a zipper from Amazon because it’s easy to grab, store and it’s only $10!
Keep it simple
You don’t have to go overboard, but a little bit of practice and conversation in the day or two before a planned appointment can make all the difference! Remember, the goal isn’t for kids to not have any emotions around medical appointments. Crying or expressing feelings IS a way of coping. Our focus is on helping your child feel in control and able to participate easily during the appointment. If your visit is with a children’s hospital, check to see if there is a child life specialist available.
More on child life specialists:
Child life specialists are trained in child development and supporting children and families during medical experiences (and much more). Most child life specialists work with children in medical settings, like hospitals. Some of the primary roles of child life specialists are to prepare children for medical procedures and promote positive experiences and coping for children during medical experiences. For more information about child life, please visit www.childlife.org.
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider. Bumblebaby makes a small commission on some of the items listed above