For the longest time, my kids were absolutely terrified of going to the doctor. We weren’t sure what caused it since neither their father nor I have ever made doctors seem scary. Even more, we’ve always tried to portray doctors as people who are there to helps us and people whom we shouldn’t be afraid of. But their fear remained. They were particularly scared of dentists, so we came up with several ways to shake that fear off, and the combo worked! Here is how we did it:
Let them get to know each other
One of the biggest problems with our kids’ fear is that they didn’t know any dentists in their everyday life, besides the one they were seeing. This meant that they couldn’t humanize them and put together a picture of their dentist as an ordinary person just like themselves. We eventually set up a dinner with some friends, one of which is a dentist, and talked with him before asking him to get friendly with the kids. After spending some time talking and playing with them, he told them that he was a dentist. The kids were taken aback at first, but they soon accepted that dentists are people too and that they are not monsters trying to hurt them. If you have any close friends or family members that are doctors or dentists, make sure to introduce them to your kids, since it will unveil the myth that doctors aren’t normal, everyday people.
Explain to them why they need to see a dentist
Kids often have a problem with doing things “just because they’re told to”, and they have every right. Nobody should have to do something without explanation. So, make sure that your kids know exactly why going to the dentist and maintaining a good oral hygiene is important. There is one thing you need to be careful about: if you explain to your kids that they need to brush their teeth so that they don’t have to go to the dentist, but they end up needing to go anyway, that might discourage them from keeping good oral hygiene in the future, since they might think it’s pointless. Make sure you tell them that it’s not their fault if they get a cavity or experience any other problems, and that it doesn’t mean that they were not taking good care of their teeth, but that it just happens sometimes.
Take them to regular checkups
There is a great myth about everything at the doctor’s office being there to hurt you. Kids are afraid of pain and that is the number one reason why they are scared of doctors: it’s the place they go to if they are hurting. It’s important to break that link between the doctor’s office and pain, and we did it by taking them to regular check-ups. We found a great dentist at Bondi Junction and took our kids for regular checkups that were, of course, completely pain-free. Also, we would stop by just to say hi whenever we got the chance. This broke the link that they’ve created between the dentist and the feeling of pain, and set up a friendly relationship between them, which really helped them overcome their fears.
Nobody likes having to go to the doctor when there is something wrong, but it simply something that we need to accept. Having the mindset of “they are there to help”, rather than thinking that there is something wrong that we need to fix will have us on a much different path and will create a much different relationship. It is important that kids learn how to relax at the doctor’s office at an early age, because later on, they won’t hesitate to go for a regular checkup.