Thoughtful Parenting: Tips for a less stressful doctor’s visit |

Thoughtful Parenting: Tips for a less stressful doctor’s visit

Clarice Hubbell/For the Steamboat Today

As the beginning of a new school year draws near, many Routt County parents will take their young children to the pediatrician for routine checkups and possibly immunizations. Shots and doctor’s visits can be a source of great anxiety for young children. Fortunately, there are some simple ways that any parent can support their child before, during and after a doctor’s visit.


  • Call the doctor’s office and speak with a staff member who can tell you what your child’s appointment will entail. The more accurate information you have, the better prepared you and your child will be.
  • Talk to your child about what will happen. One day is a good amount of notice. Use non-threatening language. For example, you might describe a blood pressure cuff as “hugging the arm” or use the word “poke” instead of shot.
  • Be honest with your child. Don’t lie and tell them that a shot isn’t painful. A better response would be, “Some kids say it feels like a pinch, some say it feels like a sting. After your poke, you can tell me what you think.”
  • If you know your child experiences a lot of anxiety at the doctor’s office, it is a good idea to create a plan ahead of time. Example: Counting to three before a poke, taking an imaginary trip in your mind, listening to music, etc.
  • Pack a favorite comfort item (blanket, favorite stuffed animal, etc.) and distraction item (I-Spy book, tablet) to use during the visit when needed.
  • Tip: Having a child blow up a balloon is a great way to encourage deep breaths.


  • Comfort and distract your child whenever possible — talking, cuddling, reading, etc.
  • Try to give child several appropriate choices. For example, your child might be able to choose which arm to get poked in, which book to read while waiting, where to go for ice cream afterward, etc. These choices give children a sense of control over their environment, and children who feel in control experience less anxiety.
  • Support your child even if he or she cries. A parent never should scold a child for not being brave.


  • Parents should be especially supportive after shots. Even if the plan didn’t work perfectly, do your best to reassure your child that everything is OK.
  • Talk with your doctor about what side effects might be expected.
  • Give your child lots of liquids and keep a close eye on them for a few days. Call your doctor with any concerns.

Clarice Hubbell is a certified child life specialist who has worked in two major pediatric hospitals to promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities. Hubbell has more than six years of professional experience working with children and families. Hubbell is currently lead case manager for Partners in Routt County.

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