How to Get Your Child to Like Going to the Doctor

Three Methods:Using Imaginative PracticeUsing InformationUsing Attitude and Emotion

Your child makes a fuss when you take them to the doctor's office, and this can be stressful for everyone. Going to the hospital or clinic and being examined is full of unknowns, when what your child prefers is the familiar and feeling safe. Some imagination, information, and an attitude adjustment can make your child feel comfortable going to the doctor's office.

Method 1
Using Imaginative Practice

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    Give them a doctor's play set! You can get these in most toy shops, and they include plastic stethoscopes, thermometers, tweezers and other items commonly seen during an appointment. Get your child to play with it and pretend he/she is the doctor. Let them 'examine' you, and practice on dolls or stuffed toys.
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    Use guided role play. Have them role play what will or might possibly occur during the appointment. You can play doctor and model how caring you will be. It's also fun to have them play the doctor—the aspects they are most anxious about will show up in their portrayal, allowing you to rest their fears.[1]
    • For example, you could ask, "Can you show me where your heart is?" When the child points to the heart, you can then say, "That's right! Your heart is here. Now I'd like to check your heartbeat to see if it's regular. Is that okay?" Then, show your child, through pretend-play, how the doctor will check their heart during a visit.
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    Do a test run where you leave the room. Many children are terrified about being left alone in a room with an adult who is not their relative or school teacher. If your child's appointment requires you to leave them alone with the medical professional, you can ease their concerns by practicing what separating from them temporarily feels like.
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    Give them fun books about going to the doctor's office.[2] There are wonderful kid's books about children going to the doctor's office. These books reassure them that there is nothing to worry about, but can do so in a more kid-friendly way! Provide them a book with cartoons or lots of pictures in and they will be less worried!
    • If your child responds more to videos than picture books, a number of fun videos exist online that show kids how fun going to the doctor's office can be. Child-oriented websites like Sesame Street, for example, offer a variety of free, fun videos that cover many types of doctor visits.[3]

Method 2
Using Information

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    Tell them what to expect.[4] The most common source of a child's anxiety about going to a check-up or appointment is not knowing what will happen to them. You can dispel that anxiety by simply telling them, in age-appropriate but honest ways, what they can expect. This approach uses information to allow them to visualize, in advance, the encounter that has them so worried because it is unknown.
    • For example, you can tell them that "The doctor is going to have a soft wrap that will hug your arm like this. The hug will get harder and then stop, and that way we can learn how fast your blood is moving."
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    Explain the purpose of the visit. Similar to telling them what to expect, explaining the purpose of the appointment or check-up lets your child know why it's important and how the visit connects to their health and your family life. Educating your child will help ease their anxiety through knowledge.
    • For example, you can explain your child's dental check-up by saying, "We need to keep our teeth clean so our mouths can smell good and our teeth can stay strong. We do a pretty good job when we brush our teeth after every meal, but the dentist has really special tools that can see hidden things we might miss because they're so tiny."
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    Have your child ask questions. As you talk with them, have them ask you questions about what they don't know, what confuses them, and especially what they are afraid of. Take time to help them generate their own questions that they can write down and bring with them to the appointment. It will give them a greater sense of control and comfort if they can walk in with specific questions for the nurses, assistants, and doctors that they have come up with on their own.
    • For example, your child might be nervous about the pieces of gum they keep swallowing (that you have told them not to swallow). You could encourage them to ask the doctor, "How long will it take for my gum to go through my body?"
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    Address guilty feelings.[5] Sometimes if a child has a serious medical condition, the effort to get them to the doctor, and the disruption this might cause in the family routine, is something they will notice—even if they don't always have the vocabulary to explain what they see happening. This can cause great feelings of guilt, with your child feeling that they are the cause of all the anxiety around them. Talk honestly and lovingly about any guilt they might be holding, assuring them that going to the doctor is not a punishment but an opportunity the family is fortunate to have.
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    Take them along to your own medical appointments.[6] Where appropriate, one fast way to get your child more used to the idea of going to the doctor's office is by taking them along when you go for a check-up or non-stressful appointment. Take them along when they don't need to be examined, and let them see, by watching how comfortable you are, that there is nothing wrong!

Method 3
Using Attitude and Emotion

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    Stay positive, calm, and confident.[7][8] Your child will look to you for cues about the situation. If you are tense, nervous, or fearful you may inadvertently encourage these emotions in your child. Even if your child has misbehaved at the doctor's office in the past stay confident that this time everything will go perfectly.
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    Praise good behavior with compliments. Taking a child to the doctor's office is part of the work you need to do to socialize them into life as a member of a community. Remember that they are learning all sorts of social skills through this process, so be sure to compliment them when they behave the way you want them to, reinforcing the positive aspects of the experience.
    • For example, you could say, "You were so good today when you got your shot! I was very proud of how you held my hand and did not want to close your eyes. In fact, you were so brave I think we need to go get some ice cream to celebrate."
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    Validate their fears. While this is similar to giving them information, you won't know all the information you'll need to share until you have a sense of where their anxious minds and active imaginations have taken them. Ask them why they are scared, and let them know you will be with them, carefully watching, and that they will not be hurt by this experience.[9]
    • Remember that a trip to the doctor touches on most of the natural fears children have based on their psychological development—it's natural for them to be anxious about it! Talk with them to put them at ease.
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    Reframe their fears. Telling your child "It's not going to be that scary," might not feel comforting if your child is quite anxious and fearful already. Instead, get them to think about the experience in a different way by talking about how going to the doctor's office can help them feel better.
    • For example, you could say, "Getting your teeth scraped today is going to feel strange and unpleasant for a few minutes. But when those few minutes are up, your teeth are going to be healthier, a whole lot stronger, and clean and shiny--just like the people we see on television."


  • For younger kids going for shots, bring their favorite band-aid; such as Dora, Hello Kitty, or Diego.
  • Sometimes bringing a favorite stuffed animal or toy along—some object they can hold that is loved and familiar—will help the child relax.
  • Sometimes a food or drink treat can boost their mood, if offered as a reward for behaving well. This can be problematic (visits to the dentist that end in eating sweets, for example), so pursue a rewards strategy only if it works within the routines you have already developed in raising your child.
  • If they end up having to get shots, try rubbing ice on the area where the shot will be given to make it hurt less. Consult with the doctor about their shots, and whether the doctor can use a topical anesthetic.


  • Sometimes, even when treats are mentioned, a child may still misbehave at the doctor's office. Always emphasize that going to the doctor helps people feel better and prevents sickness, but remember to be patient with your child, too—feeling comfortable about going to the doctor's office is a learning process.

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Categories: Childhood Health