If there’s one thing that children are afraid of, it’s healthcare settings. Whether it’s the hospital or the dentist, children don’t often do very well when they’re going to be poked and prodded by strange people – and who can blame them! As an adult, you may know the anxiety that comes with needing to get a checkup or to get that sore tooth seen to – you know it feels scary and unknown. Well, children feel the very same way most of the time.
You know you can’t allow their emotions to dictate whether they get checked out by the dentist or the doctor, but how do you help them to feel less fearful about their health? You can read more about oral hygiene and overall health to make sure that their check ups are nice and quick, but what else can you be doing? Well, for a start you can address their anxiety as something real. Next? Well, check out the tips below!
Get to The Bottom Of It. Before you can feel impatient about the imminent tears at the mention of the word “dentist”, you need to understand why they feel so strongly about it. Is it the waiting around in the room for their name to be called? Is it feeling helpless in a foregin chair? Is it the metal instruments in the mouth? All of this builds into uncontrollable anxiety, and you can help this! You can talk to them through the procedure and watch cartoons about the dentist or the doctor to make it less scary for them.
Distract. So, the waiting is scary? Load up an iPad with cartoons and let them while away the time while they watch. Is it the instruments? Get them a practice kit to play with at home and distract from the fear with roleplay. You can bring a dot-to-dot drawing pad and busy their mind with puzzles, too!
Stress Management. Children benefit from deep breathing as much as adults do. You can teach your child how to center themselves and breathe deeply, allowing them to let go of the anxiety that they feel. Small steps can help them to feel in control, which is half the battle with health anxiety. Practice slow breathing together and you can ensure that you reduce your anxiety massively.
Bribery Helps. Okay, so we’re not above bribing the kids to go calmly to the doctor, but it’s not for our benefit. There is nothing harder to watch than a distressed child who doesn’t know how to handle their emotions. You can make a tough situation much easier with the focus being on a treat for after the appointment.
Tell The Staff. If the doctor knows that your child has anxiety, they will make sure that the atmosphere and their manner is calm and ready to help them ease into the appointment. The doctor can even come into the waiting room to say hello, offering reassurance that this is a positive thing for your child.
Book To See A Therapist. Children can benefit from the help of a therapist as much as a grown up can. You can research the right therapist to help your child to feel okay with dentist appointments and with doctor visits, and then you can get through to them and make them feel happier about what’s to come.
Plan To Perfection. Precise planning is going to help your child to feel ready to attend an appointment that they deem to be scary. The key in preparation is time and you can do this by booking well in advance. Every day, have a chat casually about the dentist or doctors’ appointment ahead and they can feel like they are in control of what’s going to happen. Have them mark off the days on a calendar and they can feel better connected to what’s going to come next.
No matter what you do, it’s important that you honor your child’s anxiety. It’s a very real, very scary feeling and they don’t often know what’s going on. Don’t make them feel small or make them feel like their fear is nothing. Let them take control of their emotions and ask them what will help them to feel calm. Non-attendance isn’t an option, so you have to work out a solution together to come to the right result. Health anxiety is debilitating in small children. What are you willing to do to help your child to come through it in one piece?