In the hectic, stressed-out life of parenting, few things bring more added stress than a visit to the doctor. Whether it is a routine checkup or due to injury or illness, getting your kids into the doctor’s office and keeping them calm and manageable while there can test your reserves of patience. Like most things we encounter as parents, there is no single strategy or trick to make every child easy to handle at the doctor. But here are four tips that seem to be universally helpful. 

Plan Ahead

While you may not be able to plan for a sick visit, the well visits can lay the groundwork. Any planning you put into the well visits will likely lead to calmer visits in general.  A good plan includes free time to spend with the child both before and after the visit. This allows you to prepare the child before and comfort them afterward if necessary. 

Explain and Answer

Although it may seem easier to you to spring a doctor’s visit on your child to prevent drama in the time leading up to the appointment, this is only a short-term fix. It may make getting to that one visit easier — but it will likely lead to increased drama during the visit and increased anxiety about future visits. 

Take the time to tell your child about an upcoming doctor’s appointment in language they can understand. Tell them what to expect and answer any questions they may have about why checkups and immunizations are necessary. 

While you don’t need to go into graphic details about the visit — “You’re going to get a shot and it’s going to hurt!” — it is best to be honest about what will happen and answer all their questions as completely as possible. 

Start Young and Be Age-Appropriate

While you may not be able to get a toddler or infant to comprehend your explanation of an impending doctor’s visit, it is best to take the time to explain it to them anyway. This gets both of you in the habit of talking/listening to the explanations.  

For older children, the explanations can be more detailed. Again, however, there is no need to increase either of your anxiety levels by focusing on the negatives. Be honest that shots may hurt, but spend most of your time talking about the reasons for the shots and how a few seconds of pain will prevent illness later. 

Stay Calm Yourself

If you are a parent, then you already know that your children take their cues from you. It is vital that you stay calm and confident in the doctor’s office. 

Of course, this is easier said than done. Between the stress of getting your child to the doctor’s office and your own worries about any procedures that may be done, it can be hard to keep yourself relaxed and without fear.

Take some deep breaths, hug your child, talk to other parents in the waiting room — whatever it takes to allow you to enter the examination room calmly and with a smile for both the doctor and your child. 

There may not be any such thing as a completely stress-free trip to your child’s doctor, but there are ways to minimize the drama. Honesty, confidence, and patience are the cornerstones from which a healthy relationship between your child and medical professionals can be built.