One of the many challenges faced by parents includes a fear that's all too commonplace: kids facing their apprehensions when visiting the doctor's office. Time and time again, parents all over the world have tried countless methods to help soothe worried children, and there are strategies to try from psychotherapists and psychologists specializing in child development and behavior.
Last year, new research from the University of Michigan showed that a whopping 66 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 5 years old can't stand getting shots, and 43 percent of 2-3-year-olds hold strong fears against going to the see the doctor.
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Sadly enough, when most parents see their children experiencing such stress, it often creates a domino effect for parents and children. Sometimes, parents may choose to cancel the doctor's appointment, or simply ignore the problem because they fear it might make the situation worse. However, this might only cause bigger problems later down the line. According to Sasha Albani, a licensed child psychotherapist, there are ways to work around the problem, and multiple strategies to help your child face their fears of the doctor.
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Albani mentions that using one's imagination and playing with young children could actually be a huge lifesaver. For example, parents can start by using a playset including doctor's equipment, and try to simulate what the child might experience in the doctor's office. Another strategy to try is to introduce books and films that show children going to see the doctor. When children see other kids going through a positive experience, they'll be less likely to be worried about their own appointment. The team at NPR recommends titles like Daniel Visits the Doctor by Becky Friedman, Lions Aren't Scared of Shots: A Story for Children About Visiting the Doctor, by Howard S. Bennett, and Imagine a Rainbow: A Child's Guide for Soothing Pain, by Brenda S. Miles. Other ways to help kids cope include mindful breathing techniques, and sharing relaxing ways that kids can help quell anxious feelings.
For a modern approach, some doctors are turning to virtual reality technology as an alternative solution. As NPR reports, Dr. Tom Caruso from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, has tried incorporating VR tech into his hospital programming. When children interact with the virtual reality technology, they can focus their attention on calming down, instead of feeling alarmed by their hospital experience. Although there's no one magic bullet to solve everything, these strategies have shown to help improve children's fears with going to the doctor's office for an appointment and heading to the hospital. Remember, studies have shown that children who learn to overcome their fear of going to the doctor have an increased chance of feeling more comfortable with health issues in the future.