While most adults get a little anxious before a new experience, these feelings are often magnified in the minds of youngsters.
Imaginations can go wild at the thought of a visit to the doctor or dentist, or the first day of preschool. Parents have the challenge of merging children’s perceptions with realistic expectations of a new or uncomfortable experience.
Preparation is Key!
Our Top Ideas to Support Your Child
- Read a book about the experience. A great resource is the First Experience Books (set of 6) by Usborne Books, with topics including: going to the hospital, dentist, doctor, school, the new puppy, and going on a plane. The “Little Critter” books, by Mercer Mayer also have many good preparation stories.
- Get recommendations about dentists, pediatricians and hair salons that are kid friendly and you get a good vibe from.
- Act out a doctor’s visit, using a doctor’s kit. If your child is anxious about getting shots, role playing will really help, along with explaining why they get vaccinations. Reassure them that a doctor or dentist visit is for their well-being. Let them know what to expect, that it’s necessary, and that big people do it too.
- Talk about an activity several days in advance if you have a child that needs this kind of preparation to get them used to hearing about it.
- Always tell them the truth about the pending experience, and remember that the less build-up the better!
- Visit the place ahead of time and answer any questions that are asked, since giving too much information can be overwhelming.
- Introduce a positive model, such as someone else giving a testimony about their experience, or talk about their friends who have had a similar experience.
- Be a good role model. Talk about your own similar experiences.
- Keep your own discomfort from showing, as children will pick up on your vibes. If you have issues with the dentist, for example, perhaps your spouse can take your child to the appointment.
- Offer them a treat or wonderful positive reinforcement for handling the experience well.
Can you add to this list? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.