5 Tips to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety at the Doctor

For a young child, the doctor’s office can be an unfamiliar and scary place, making it difficult for a youngster to understand why these visits are important. Often times, the experience may be stressful – for both kids and their parents. If you are struggling to get your child in for check-ups, you’re not alone. 

child at doctor's office

In a national poll that surveyed parents of kids between the ages of 2 to 5, half reported their child is afraid of going to the doctor. Top reasons for their fear include:

Children ages 2 to 3

  • The fear of getting a shot (66 percent)
  • Stranger anxiety (43 percent)

Children ages 4 to 5

  • Getting a shot (89 percent)
  • Stranger anxiety (14 percent)
  • Bad memories of being sick (13 percent)

If your child gets nervous about going to the doctor, don’t give up hope. Consider these tips for putting their anxiety at ease:

1. Prepare your child for what to expect. Talk about what may happen at their next check-up. But try to avoid making promises that may be broken during the visit, like whether they are getting a shot or not. You may consider reading books, watching shows or playing with a toy medical kit to help develop expectations about what happens at the doctor.  

2. Build patient-doctor trust. Try to see the same doctor so your child can get to know him or her over time. If kids are able to put a face to their doctor, it may make the experience less scary.

3. Ensure you’ll be together. Your child may be scared you’ll leave them alone with the doctor during an appointment. Explain that you’ll be there the whole visit.

4. Plan a rewarding experience. Incentivize your child with an ice cream cone or a trip to the park after the exam. Something positive to look forward to after the appointment may make them less anxious during the visit.

5. Be calm. Your child may sense your energy. If you are anxious, that may be mirrored.

Your kid may struggle to get over their fear of the doctor, but these tips may make the next visit easier. If you’re concerned with your child’s level of anxiety, talk with their pediatrician.