Separation Anxiety: The Root Cause Of Your Child’s Doctor Fears

Going to the doctor can be an ordeal for children. Yes, there’s the fear of the unknown, but doctors are also people who come in between the parent-child bond, which can lead to intense feelings of anxiety in the child.   When I first got my children through foster care, my daughter was seeing a physician weekly due to concerns of failure to thrive.   She was absolutely traumatized because she was pulled from everything she knew and then was being taken to a doctor who was a stranger, with a caseworker who she rarely and her biological parents.  Needless to say, it was rough.  After the the first few weeks of the caseworker taking her, she finally showed signs of weight gain and they backed off of the weekly doctor visits.  After a few weeks, I had to take her to an urgent care and I could see the anxiety and distress that she was feeling.  I comforted her and tried to make her understand that they weren’t going to hurt and I was right there but it was so difficult.  

As a parent, watching these emotions unfold can be a challenging experience. You don’t want your child to feel bad, but at the same time, you recognize the importance of medical care. So what can you do?

It turns out that there are quite many strategies that you can employ to make your child feel better about visiting the doctors or undergoing some kind of surgery, like a tonsillectomy. Here’s how you can help.

Now, five years later we go to the doctor and have smiles like this.  Makes my heart happy!!

Make It Clear Why You’re Going To The Doctor

One of the main fears that children have about doctors is the fear of the unknown. They pick up all sorts of scary things from the culture, like needles, scalpels, and open heart surgery. But the chances are that the child won’t have to undergo anything gruesome. And even if they do, it’s the job of the parent to sell the procedure as much as possible. Point out that they won’t experience, any pain, that you’ll be with them the whole time, and that it’ll make them feel better.

Process Underlying Feelings

Most of the time children feel scared about going to the doctors. Rather than brush these feelings under the rug, hoping that they will go away, it’s usually a better policy to deal with them in the open.

As a first step, try to get your child to vocalize how they feel. Most of the time, you’ll discover that they are experiencing a combination of fear and anxiety. The next step is to try to make the doctor’s office a positive experience. For instance, you could talk about how lucky you are to be able to go to a person who has the expertise to make you well. People didn’t always have that throughout history, and some people in some countries still don’t have that.

You can talk about the people your child knows who got better after going to the doctors. Talk about all the people who got better from infections or broken limbs.   And, if all else fails remind them that if all else fails they can get a lollipop when they leave.  That always works for us!  🙂  

Talk About How Bad They Feel Now They Are Sick

Children don’t want to be sick. Parents, therefore, can leverage this to encourage them to see doctors more positively. You could point out how much better they will feel once they’ve had treatment, or better yet, get them to imagine it.

The important part is to remind your child that you’ll be there to share their fears at all points during the meeting with the doctor. You can even model going to the doctor for them, showing them that you’re not scared, and so they don’t have to be either.

Finally, choosing the right doctor can make a big difference. The appearance and manner of the doctor can have a profound influence on how your child feels.