Oh, for the good old days when our baby would peacefully sleep through a visit to the pediatrician. Toddlers are old enough to know what’s going on. They can scream in fear when they remember the needle from the last check-up, and wriggle in protest as strangers (even if it is a friendly doctor) poke at their body.
Here are some ways to prepare your toddler for a checkup, to ease her fears and minimizing meltdowns (which is good news for you, too!)
Buy a doctor’s kit
Get your child a toy stethoscope and thermometer, and play doctor with stuffed animals or with each other. ‘Oh, Teddy has the sniffles. Let’s check his throat. Say, ‘Ah!’ Teddy!’ These games can help your child understand what happens at a checkup, and not freak out when it’s her turn at the doctor’s office. You can also buy books for kids.
Set a doctor’s appointment
Even the calmest and most well behaved toddler will grow restless and frustrated if he has to sit still for a long time in the waiting room. By the time he sees the doctor, he’ll be so agitated that it’s a tantrum waiting to happen. So set an appointment. If you can’t, try to be there early in the morning or in the afternoon so you get the first slot.
Bring snacks and a book.
Sometimes, despite an appointment, you’ll end up waiting a long time anyway because of dawdling patients or the doctor running late because of an emergency. So pack a snack and a small toy that will keep your toddler busy and happy.
Ask your questions first
Give your toddler a chance to get used to the pediatrician. So, the first thing you do when you walk into the doctor’s office, before you do the actual checkup, ask questions. Your child will relax when he sees that you and the doctor are ‘friends.’
Bring a comfort toy.
Your child will instantly feel safer when he brings along his familiar teddy bear, and the doctor can even check Teddy’s ears and heartbeat first.
Dress your toddler in comfortable clothes that you can slip on and off quickly, and without fuss.
Settle bills or schedule the next appointment while you’re waiting for your turn, so you can leave the doctor’s office right away.
Don’t feed on the fear
Don’t use the doctor to threaten your child: “The doctors’ getting angry at you! Behave!” or “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll get sick and you’ll need a shot!” These will lead to doctor’s phobia. Tell your child the doctor is his friend who helps him stay healthy and strong. For more tips, read our article on how to help your child conquer dentist’s phobia.
Photo from readysteadytoddler.org.uk