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    Helping children feel comfortable at the doctor's office
    Roy Benaroch, MD posted:
    Let me tell you: I don't want to make your child cry. I feel bad for the kids when they're upset, and it also makes my job difficult when I can't hear the parents or examine the child without tears.

    There are certainly some understandable reasons why kids get upset at my office. They often come when they're already not feeling well, and sitting around waiting for the doctor isn't going to cheer anyone up. And of course, there are the dreaded finger pokes and shots and strep tests-- all pretty unpleasant, I'll admit.

    Still, most of the time I can get through a visit with only a few tears, and maybe even some big smiles. What are the best ways you know of to help children relax at the doctor's? Is there anything special that the doc or nurses can do? Or any special tricks you've figured out yourself?
    Lainey_WebMD_Staff responded:
    This is a great question Dr Benaroch. I have a wonderful doctor that always makes the extra effort to make my boys feel comfortable. The one tip I can give that has always worked for my doctor is; he speaks directly to the children as much as possible. At first, I was not comfortable with this and felt a need to articulate what my very young children were attempting to explain to him. Their doctor explained (very politely) that children will relax quicker if I allowed them to explain what they are feeling to him first. Because of this, my boys trust their doctor and even like the visit even when they don't feel well. My boys know that their doctor genuinely cares.
    sarahann1978 responded:
    I personally think you hit the nail on the head with the waiting for the doctor part. My DS is 19 months old and very energetic and can't stand to sit still in the doctors office. He isn't really into too many toys and absolutely loves to explore in the office while we wait and gets mad at me because I try to keep him from getting into everything. By the time the doctor gets in there he is a wreck. It would be better to wait to call us in the room until the doctor is ready to go. At least in the waiting room I have the option to walk around more and go outside for a breath of fresh air and it takes away the temptation to explore all the neat drawers and cabinets.
    Roy Benaroch, MD replied to sarahann1978's response:
    I don't mind one bit if an active toddler wants to explore the cabinets-- we keep the sharp and dangerous stuff out of the rooms, so pretty much all he can get to are paper gowns and a few fresh diapers! 19 month olds are supposed to explore and get into things, and as long as that's safe, it's better to let him do his thing.

    We have separate well and sick waiting rooms which can help-- it's not a good idea for sick kids to go strolling about touching things.
    Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
    When my children were little they saw a doctor that had crayons for coloring on the exam table paper. That helped.

    Other than that, I think careful scheduling when possible helped--no well child checks during nap time or right before dinner if I could avoid it. Of course, you need to find a doctor who does well child checks during a good time of day.

    With teens and tweens, I find it harder. One of my children seriously has a doctor phobia and turns pale when you just mention an appointment. He's 16 and I fear he will become that adult male that never goes to the doctor.

    With the girls, I wish there was something I could do to help though. They hate going to the doctor because the doctor tells one she is overweight and one she is underweight. The doctor doesn't say it in any way that a rational human would hate--but middle school girls and some women hear weight information badly. Add to that the fact that one of my girls is having some irregular menstruation and needs to talk to the doctor about it--but won't--you have a worried mother.

    So much time gets spent on the toddler/young elementary school set and making them feel comfortable at the doctor's office, but not so much the older children. Preschoolers get over it and sure it makes a parent's (and presumably doctor's) heart ache to see a child upset at the doctor, but it doesn't last.

    But once the kids grow out of stickers, lollipops, and toys in the waiting room--it seems no one cares that these children do have anxiety about talking to the doctor, about shots, about the strange equipment, added to the issues of modesty, to whether they feel comfortable without a parent or with a parent in the room, etc.
    sarahann1978 replied to Roy Benaroch, MD's response:
    I guess I should have mentioned that I live in an extremely isolated tiny town and we don't have an actual pediatrician so we go to a general clinic that in not childproofed. Since my DS is generally healthy this works for us, but we have a friend who drives 90 miles to take her son to an actual pediatrician because he has asthma. When I think about it none of the stuff in the cabinets or drawers is really sharp or dangerous I guess, but it's all full of all the clinic stuff (one of the drawers he got into even had those disposable plastic speculums) that is sterile and my son would contaminate if he drug it all out and got into it, not to mention it would be a huge mess!

    The clinic also does not have separate waiting rooms, which would be so nice! When my DS was getting one of the early on healthy baby checks we were in there waiting and my husband saw a kid who worked for him one summer and shook his hand. When we got in the nurse made my husband wash his hands thoroughly because she new that kid had something very contagious. Someday I hope we are able to move, but I don't know if I'll be able to contain my excitement with a real pediatric office.
    MIOB responded:
    I agree that the wait in the room with a toddler is painful. But I've also found there are some things I can do which helped, too. We were frequent visitors to the pedi's office because of chronic ear infections when he was around a year old and he started hating the doctor's office. For Christmas, we bought him a play 'doctor's kit' and we practiced looking in his ears, listening to his heart - the next time we went in, he was familiar with what was going to happen and we kept repeating 'Just like when Mommy looked in your ears!'.

    Visits are much more pleasant now.

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