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Preparing your Child for Visits to Doctor

When kids anticipate "going to the doctor," many become worried and apprehensive about the visit. Whether they're going to see their primary care doctor or a specialist — and whether for a routine exam, illness, or special problem — kids are likely to have fears, and some may even feel guilty.

Some fears and guilty feelings surface easily, so that kids can talk about them. Others are harbored secretly and remain unspoken. You can help your child express these fears and overcome them.

Common Fears and Concerns About Medical Exams

Things that often top kids' lists of concerns about going to the doctor include:

  • Separation. Kids often fear that their parents may leave them in the exam room and wait in another room. The fear of separation from the parent during mysterious examinations is most common in kids under 7 years old, but can be frightening to older kids through ages 12 or 13.
  • Pain. Kids may worry that a part of the exam or a medical procedure will hurt. They especially fear they may need an injection, particularly kids ages 6 through 12.
  • The doctor. Some kids' concerns may be about the doctor's manner. A kid may misinterpret qualities such as speed, efficiency, or a detached attitude and view them as sternness, dislike, or rejection.
  • The unknown. Apprehensive about the unknown, kids also worry that their problem may be much worse than their parents are telling them. Some who have simple problems suspect they may need surgery or hospitalization; some who are ill worry that they may die.

In addition, kids often harbor feelings of guilt: They may believe that their illness or condition is punishment for something they've done or neglected to do. Kids who feel guilty may also believe that examinations and medical procedures are part of their punishment.

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