Well child visits are so important! Regular visits help healthcare providers support kids’ physical, emotional, and social development. But let’s face it, when children experience feelings of anxiety or fear about their appointment, even a routine check-up can cause a major meltdown.
So, what can we do to work through these big feelings and ensure caregivers and kiddos are ready for their next visit? The fit team is here to help! We’ve partnered with our experts at Sanford Health to create a one-of-a-kind resource: Preparing Your Child for Their Doctor Visit: A Printable Activity Kit.
Inside you’ll find:
- Practical advice for caregivers and kids
- Well Child Visit & Immunization Schedule (from birth to 18 years old)
- Kids’ Activity Pages
- A Check-Up Checklist
- Pretend Medical Play Kit
You may be thinking “That all sounds great, but how will this actually help?” We sat down with Brittney Nathan, a Certified Child Life Specialist and toddler mom to break it down.
“If your child is feeling scared about an upcoming doctor visit, know that this is not uncommon. Kids crave a sense of control, and the medical environment is full of unknowns. Imagine going into an appointment with minimal information as to what’s going to happen, if anything will hurt, how long it will last, etc. These are stressful thoughts that can snowball into overwhelming anxiety for kids.”
“While nobody wants a child to experience pain or stressful situations, occasionally, it’s going to happen. If we ignore this and don’t properly prepare kids for what’s to come, we’ve actually done them a disservice and broken their trust. So instead, let’s teach kids HOW to cope with this experience!”
That’s where the new resource, Preparing Your Child for Their Doctor Visit, comes in. It has everything a caregiver needs to prepare a child through play! Brittney especially loves the pretend medical play kit.
Play is so much more than fun; it’s how kids express themselves and connect to the world around them. A few benefits of medical play include:
- Normalizing the medical equipment used during kids’ check-ups
- Helping children know what to expect during their visit
- Allowing kids to express themselves or any fears they have in an age-appropriate manner
- Providing opportunities to learn coping strategies, such as deep breathing, which can be used during a check-up
- Giving kids a sense of control over an unfamiliar experience
“And as the mom of a quick-footed toddler who had zero interest in complying with staff throughout many check-ups, truthfully, it works,” Brittney says. “After engaging in medical play with my little guy, he not only follows (most) directions and participates in his visits, he now looks forward to seeing his favorite ‘doctor helpers’.”
Another mom from Sioux Falls, SD, says, “Both of my kids had a hard time going for their checkups because they were so worried about shots. I used to dread taking them because of the meltdowns. After reading about how to use medical play and calm down strategies with kids, we worked on it together and our last trip to the doctor was so much better! Now before an appointment, we talk about why we’re going to the doctor and what’s going to happen, and then they feel better about handling the hard parts. We use calming breaths and always take a stuffed animal along for support so even when they get nervous, we have a plan.”
Looking for more simple ways to help your kiddos cope with the overwhelming emotions that might come with preparing for a doctor’s appointment? Here are some quick ideas:
- Learn about what will happen and what to expect.
- Read a picture book about going to the doctor.
- Get familiar with common medical tools.
- Use a toy doctor’s kit to do a practice run.
- Encourage them to bring a stuffed animal to the appointment.
- Be honest. Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
- “You are not getting a shot this time.”
- Offer something to look forward to.
- “After the appointment, let’s go to the playground.”
And don’t forget, you and your child are both human, so big feelings might take more time to work through and that’s okay. Prepare as you’re able, do your best, and remember that you’re doing it for your kiddo’s health and wellness. You’ve got this!
Ready for More? You Might Also Like:
Hello Healthy Activity Book
My Keep Cool Cards: Printable Coping Strategy Cards for Kids
Promoting Social and Emotional Health in Youth