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  • Writer's pictureDr Andy Raffles

Preparing Your Child For A Doctor's Appointment - Can You Find The Words?

Visiting the doctor can be fun trip out, most doctors consulting rooms and waiting areas are child friendly with toys and book and interesting pictures. We recognise that sometimes our young patients may need some reassurance and explanation before they come, but what do you say and how can you prepare them?

For some a trip to the doctor can be quite a daunting experience for your child, for first timers, the unknown, imagination and fears can be a hurdle to overcome. Take some time to explain to them what to expect, tell them you will be there with them and if they appear fearful, ask them what they are worried about. Try not to surprise them in an attempt to limit their time to worry, as this may encourage distrust in other scenarios and they may feel tricked. You don’t need to tell them too soon in advance as they may either forget or worry more, where possible the day before would be best. Let them know in a positive way…

  • The doctor is a kind person who wants to make sure they are healthy so they can continue to do all the things they enjoy

  • All children need to see a doctor and there are special doctors just for them Usually there are play areas with toys, books and bright pictures especially for children and there may even be other children to share their fun with. During the Covid-19 period however, waiting rooms will be less busy and all toys and books will be removed, so bringing their own favourite toy or book 'to show the doctor' with them may be a good idea, but don't forget to take it back home with you!

  • If you know, describe in a jolly way, where they are going and how they are getting there... i.e. trip on a London red bus or on a train

  • If you plan to visit a park or anything else before or after let them know as it may help packaging as an adventure

You may find the word search puzzle we have prepared fun for the older children, but also includes words we would associate with visiting our Practice and may prove useful to include when explaining what to expect.

Of course you may not know yourself what will happen at the appointment - try to find out in advance from the doctor’s office, who will be happy to help. In general though you might expect to:

• Register at the clinic on arrival

During the Covid-19, all attending will have temperatures taken on arrival

Masks will be issued but they will only wear if it doesn't make them anxious • Wait for a short time in a waiting room • See the doctor with or without a nurse assisting • Examination of the child by the doctor • Discussion regarding any concerns or symptoms • It may be necessary to have further tests such as bloods or ultrasounds • It may be that your child is also due some immunisations A typical examination by the doctor may include • Having their temperature taken, usually with an ear thermometer • Having their weight and height checked • Listening to their heart and their chest with a stethoscope, front and back. • Looking in their ears and throat • Tapping or pressing on their tummy • Sometimes the doctor may need to quickly examine the genital area If they need to have blood taken, explain gently and calmly that it is only a little bit of blood that will be needed and their body is full of it so they don’t need to worry. Kids can cope with a little discomfort or pain, but there are ‘magic’ creams that can be applied to help reduce this.

Be truthful with them, if you know the examination might be a little uncomfortable or embarrassing, don’t go into too much detail and they will feel more confident and calm knowing when simply put, why and what is going to happen.

Similarly, with immunisations most children worry more about how it is going to feel, so you can reduce their fears by using your fingernail gently to simulate a pricking sensation. Most children can be easily distracted during these and respond well to praise afterwards - often a ‘well done’ sticker is awarded.

Dress you child in clothes that will enable easy examining, e.g. loose t-shirt or vest particularly the older children and girls, to minimise the need to remove clothing if they are a little shy. Prepare any questions you may wish to ask at the appointment in advance just in case you are distracted by your child. By preparing in advance you may be able to choose a more mindful language given that there will be little ears in the room. It is good to remember that a Paediatrician and the nurses assisting are specially trained to communicate with and put their young patients at ease and will be able to help you at the appointment should your child be a little nervous, so that you get the best out of the appointment.

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