At the dentist’s office, we expect our children to allow strangers to have access to their bodies and even to cause them a certain level of discomfort without batting an eyelash. As parents, it is our job to help them process their fears and grow through them. Here are six tips to help you help your children work through the anxiety of a medical visit.
Six Tips for Calming Your Children’s Anxiety at the Doctor or Dentist
Children look to you for clues as to how to feel in certain situations. You can help your children by acting out your confidence in the dentists, hygienists, and other healthcare givers in front of your children. Handshakes, smiles, and cheerful greetings go a long way toward calming your children’s fears.
Acknowledge Their Concerns
Let your children know what to expect at every stage of the process and explain as much as you can about the visit without talking down to them. For example, telling your children that the “weird smell” is a cleaner that keeps everybody from getting sick helps them process a disagreeable sensation. Agree with them when they say it smells bad.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your children is to validate their feelings. For example, one frightened kindergartener demanded his mother take him home immediately. When he got no traction, he threatened to hit her. Very calmly she answered, “It is OK for you to be scared, but it is not OK for you to hit me.” Then she changed her expression and drew him in for a hug. This mom understood that fear motivated the behavior and maintained her boundaries without denying her son’s fears.
Model Desired Behaviors
Children are counting on their parents to help them interpret life. One way to calm your children’s fears about the dentist’s office is to take them along on your visit. Let your children ask you questions about how you feel and what’s going to happen next. Giving them a chance to process their responses to your visit will empower them for theirs.
If you are going to offer a reward, it is important to define the desired outcome ahead of time and to make the threshold for receiving the reward very low. For example, expecting your child remain absolutely silent with no crying during the procedure is sure to fail, but telling your child that it is OK to cry and to be scared so long as the dentist or hygienist is allowed to complete the procedure ensures your child’s success on several levels.
Choose a Family Dentistry Office
The best way to calm your children’s anxieties is to take them to a dentist that specializes in treating children. The professionals at this Draper dentist office are skilled in calming anxious children and have developed ways of treating and addressing them that make a trip to the dentist fun for everyone.
Your children will be going to the dentist at least twice a year for the rest of their lives. Helping them to overcome their anxiety early on will have a positive effect on them for years to come.