Helping Kids Through Trauma and PTSD

We all deal with stress everyday. Rushing to get to school in time, making ends meet during a recession, dealing with a particularly annoying in-law — stress is a part of life. And in most occasions, the stress we face is manageable.

But some sources of stress can be incredibly intense, overwhelming and beyond our physical and/or emotional resources to deal with. When this happens, the stressful event is said to be traumatic. All parents want to protect their children from things that can unsettle or harm them. But sadly, there are many things in life that even the most conscientious of parents can’t control. Our children may witness or experience traumatic events despite our best efforts to shield them. When this happens, they may have difficulty bouncing back. Sleep disturbances, sadness, anger and fear may plague a traumatized child long after the traumatic event has ended.

What is a Trauma?
Trauma is a psychological reaction to highly stressful events, particularly those that threaten life or safety. When an experience is considered traumatic, it means that the coping resources of the person witnessing or experiencing it are not enough to deal with the impact of the event, and some degree of psychological shock or breakdown occurs. Events that most people consider traumatic include vehicular accidents, crimes, natural disasters and physical or sexual abuse. Although parents may think that trauma results only from catastrophic events like war or rape, it can actually occur as a result of more normal and common events. For instance, a child can be traumatized by being chased by a dog, by a harsh reprimand from a teacher, from a threatening bully, or from being laughed at while giving an oral report. What makes an event traumatic differs from person to person, as individual coping abilities must be taken into account. Personality factors, psychological profile and past history all play a role in producing a traumatic reaction.

A trauma response often includes symptoms like reliving the event over and over again (by obsessing about it; experiencing intrusive thoughts that interrupt thoughts and activities), panic attacks, nightmares, numbness & fog responses, avoiding people, places and things that trigger a memory of the event, depressed and/or angry mood and increased nervousness (startle response).

Trauma can initiate a syndrome that shows up long after the traumatic event or events have ended. Like an initial trauma response, it affects physical and emotional functioning causing nightmares, hypervigilance, panic attacks, intrusive memories, numbness and other symptoms; the syndrome is called PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can occur weeks, years or decades after the traumatic events have passed.

Those who have some level of anxiety to begin with and those who have suffered several previous traumatic incidents are more likely to develop PTSD than other people. Lack of a support system or lack of adequate emotional support right after a trauma, also increases the chances of developing PTSD later on.

What is the Best Way to Handle PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can be effectively treated. Self-help is part of the process for teens and adults, including finding support groups, reading up on PTSD, engaging in effective stress-management routines (including regular exercise, relaxation techniques and routines for self-care), utilizing alternative treatments to strengthen the nervous system (such as herbal remedies, Bach Flower Therapy, Aromatherapy, homeopathy, accupuncture and so forth). Parents can help incorporate calming strategies into a child’s routines.

Parental support is critical when a child is dealing with trauma. Unlike adults, younger children don’t yet have the ability to understand what they are going through. Not only is the original event traumatic, but their trauma symptoms too, can be traumatic. For instance, physical symptoms like tremors and nightmares, mental symptoms like obsessions and hallucinations, and emotional symptoms like fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for a child to be experiencing.

The first line of business is to help children manage their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. A traumatized child may talk about the same thing over and over again, and this is okay. The content of the sharing is less important than the process of getting things out. If a child finds difficulty in expressing what he is going through verbally, either because of age or because of the trauma, then consider non-verbal ways of venting emotions. Letting it all out can also be done using drawings and pictures, clay sculptures and toys, play-acting, and storytelling.

Second, give your child a rational explanation of the traumatic event, that is appropriate to his or her age. The more information the child has, the less he or she is likely to generalize the event to other situations. For instance, knowing that a car crashed because it skidded on the snow can help a child feel safe in cars with good snow tires and in cars driving on dry roads. Without this information, the child may conclude that all cars are dangerous at all times. (While this is in fact true, the healthy state of mind is one of sufficient denial that a person can comfortably drive and be driven at all times. Phobic and traumatized people, on the other hand, over-exaggerate the likelihood of a catastrophic event occurring again, such that they can’t live in a normal way.)

When a child is suffering rather mild symptoms, parents may find that self-help interventions are sufficient. For instance, learning how to do EFT (emotional freedom technique) with the child may complete calm the youngster’s nervous system. However, parents may prefer to take their child to a child psychologist who practices EFT or EMDR. Both of these techniques are used to rapidly heal the trauma of one-time events. If the child is experiencing many symptoms of trauma, it is essential that parents DO NOT try the self-help approach. Instead, they should take their child to a mental health professional who is specifically trained in the treatment of PTSD.

The Bach Flower Remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can help reduce temporary and chronic symptoms of trauma and is especially effective for home-management of symptoms in between psychotherapy sessions. If you are aware that the child has just suffered a traumatic event (like watching someone get badly injured or being personally assaulted, injured or threatened), offer Rescue Remedy immediately. It may help prevent a traumatic reaction from setting in.

However, the fastest and most effective way to end the debilitating symptoms of PTSD is to get the proper professional help. Not all mental health professionals are equally trained in the treatment of PTSD. Make sure that your practitioner is! Therapeutic interventions include EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing), EFT and other forms of Energy Psychology, TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction),  and other specific tools for the treatment of trauma.

The good news is that children respond well to treatment of trauma. They can experience a complete healing of their symptoms and a return to “normalcy.” In fact, child are often even happier, calmer and more mature after trauma therapy than they were before the traumatic event(s) occurred.

Fear of Doctors or Dentists

Some babies, kids and teens have fears of medical professionals. This is highly inconvenient because all people need to see doctors and dentists at least occasionally. Moreover, some people require acute medical or dental attention – being terrified of the helping professional only adds stress to the already intense stress of injury or illness.

If your child has a fear of doctors or dentists, consider the following tips:

Babies are Smarter Than They Look
A baby often figures out rather quickly that the doctor gives – ouch – needles. If your baby develops “attitude” about doctor’s visits, it means that he or she is smart. Even though the doctor smiles and seems so friendly, he or she pokes and prods and pricks during those first-year visits. You can validate your baby’s feelings by saying things like, “I know you don’t like the doctor. It isn’t fun to get that needle!” Even if your baby doesn’t understand your speech, your validation of his or her experience is good practice for the validation that you’ll need to be doing for many years to come. Moreover, the baby can feel your sympathy and understanding even if he doesn’t understand your words. This helps establish a strong parent-child bond that builds trust while also helps to soothe and calm your baby. Once the doctor’s visits become more pleasant, the baby will usually develop a warm relationship with the doctor. In other words, in most cases, the problem will go away by itself within some months or, in more difficult cases, in a couple of years. Just wait it out. Alternatively, it may help a little if you can pair a doctor’s visit with a treat or privilege of some kind. Don’t bribe the child; simply give the child a treat or privilege when you leave the doctor’s office. This can help the child associate the doctor with pleasure and this can reduce his upset, despite the pain.

Persistent Fear Requires Intervention
If your baby doesn’t grow out of the fear of a white coat or the smell of the doctor’s office by toddlerhood, you’ll definitely want to help him along. Young kids can benefit from “bibliotherapy” – the use of picture books to help reduce anxiety. Your local library may have a selection of picture books for young children that focus on what exactly happens at a medical or dental office. Reading such books can help prepare and calm the youngster before a visit for a check-up or treatment. Older children – those beyond the picture-book stage of life – may benefit from specific stress-reduction strategies. If you know some, teach them to your child or teen. If you don’t, one or two visits to a mental health professional may be all that your child needs in order to learn some coping tools for fear. If the child has a true phobia, full treatment can take a number of weeks or even some months. One thing that you might teach a child is how to focus on his breath while the doctor or dentist performs an examination. Tell your child to pay attention to the breath going in and out of his nostrils, or pay attention to his chest rising and falling as he breathes. Alternatively, teach the child to “daydream” effectively – to use visualization to take himself to a safe, fun place while the doctor is performing his examination. A different kind of tool is “mindfulness meditation.” In this technique you teach your child to name his thoughts and feelings and physical sensations as they are occurring during the examination or treatment. For instance, the child might say (silently), “scared, nervous, don’t like this, don’t want to be here, cold, uncomfortable, want to go home, relaxed, sore, sad, upset, mad, happy to be going home now,” and so on, throughout the medical or dental visit. Even though the child is naming negative thoughts and feelings, he will actually feel more in-control and calmer by doing this exercise. Try it yourself first to see how it feels. Another tool that helps many children and teens is EFT – emotional freedom technique. You can learn about this self-help tool online. It is excellent for removing or minimizing feelings of fear.

Try Bach Flower Therapy
On the day of the medical visit, and right beforehand, try giving your child Rescue Remedy. This pre-mixed Bach Flower Remedy is available at health food stores and on-line. Rescue Remedy helps to calm feelings of overwhelming fear and panic and can be taken right before, during and right after a very frightening experience. It comes in liquid (drop 4 drops in water or any other beverage) as well as spray and candy form. In order to help ease the fearful tendency out of the child and thereby prevent on-going fear of medical professionals, use Bach Flowers regularly for some months. Try the remedies Mimulus (for fears) and Rock Rose (for panic). You can speak to a Bach Flower Therapist to get a specially designed formulation for your child or you can look up the remedy descriptions online and select up to 7 remedies to put all together in one dropper bottle. There are online resources to learn how to prepare the remedies for use.

Seek Professional Help
If you’ve tried everything and your child is still afraid of medical or dental professionals, enlist the help of a professional therapist. Do this as soon as possible to make healing easier and to save your child many years of unnecessary pain and distress.

Helping Your Child Cope with Traumatic Events

All parents want to protect their children from things that can unsettle or harm them. But sadly, there are many things in life that even the most conscientious of parents can’t control. Our children may witness or experience traumatic events despite our best efforts to shield them. When this happens, they may have difficulty bouncing back. Sleep disturbances, sadness, anger, fear, or other symptoms of trauma may plague a traumatized child long after the traumatic event has ended.

What is a Trauma?
Trauma is a psychological reaction to highly stressful events, particularly those that threaten life or safety. When an experience is considered traumatic, it means that the coping resources of the person witnessing or experiencing it are not enough to deal with the impact of the event, and some degree of psychological shock or breakdown occurs. Events that most people consider traumatic include vehicular accidents, crimes, natural disasters and physical or sexual abuse.  Although parents may think that trauma results only from catastrophic events like war or rape, it can actually occur as a result of more normal and common events. For instance, a child can be traumatized by being chased by a dog, by a harsh reprimand from a teacher, from a threatening bully, or from being laughed at while giving an oral report. What makes an event traumatic differs from person to person, as individual coping abilities must be taken into account. Personality factors, psychological profile and past history all play a role in producing a traumatic reaction. A trauma response often includes symptoms like reliving the event over and over again (obsessing about it; experiencing intrusive thoughts), panic attacks, nightmares, numbing and fog responses, avoiding people, places and things that trigger a memory of the event, depressed and/or angry mood and increased nervousness (startle response).

How can Parents Help Children Cope with Trauma?
Parental support is critical when a child is dealing with trauma. Unlike adults, younger children don’t yet have the ability to understand what they are going through. Not only is the original event traumatic, but their trauma symptoms too, can be traumatic. For instance, physical symptoms like tremors and nightmares, mental symptoms like obsessions and hallucinations, and emotional symptoms like fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for a child to be experiencing.

The first line of business is to help children manage their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. A traumatized child may talk about the same thing over and over again, and this is okay. The content of the sharing is less important than the process of getting things out. If a child finds difficulty in expressing what he is going through verbally, either because of age or because of the trauma, then consider non-verbal ways of venting emotions. Letting it all out can also be done using drawings and pictures, clay sculptures and toys, play-acting, and story-telling.

Second, give your child a rational explanation of the traumatic event, that is appropriate to his or her age. The more information the child has, the less he or she is likely to generalize the event to other situations. For instance, knowing that a car crashed because it skidded on the snow can help a child feel safe in cars with good snow tires and in cars driving on dry roads. Without this information, the child may conclude that all cars are dangerous at all times. (While this is in fact true, the healthy state of mind is one of sufficient denial that a person can comfortably drive and be driven at all times. Phobic and traumatized people, on the other hand, over-exaggerate the likelihood of a catastrophic event occuring again, such that they can’t live in a normal way.)

When a child is suffering rather mild symptoms, parents may find that self-help interventions are sufficient. For instance, learning how to do EFT (emotional freedom technique) with the child may complete calm the youngster’s nervous system. However, parents may prefer to take their child to a child psychologist who practices EFT or EMDR. Both of these techniques are used to rapidly heal the trauma of one-time events. If the child is experiencing many symptoms of trauma, it is essential that parents DO NOT try the self-help approach. Instead, they should take their child to a mental health professional who is specifically trained in the treatment of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). PTSD is the name for the cluster of symptoms that occur in reaction to a traumatic event. The “p” in this label for “post traumatic” points to the fact that trauma symptoms can suddenly occur months, years or even decades after the original traumatic event(s). The mind/body seems to wait for the “right time” to release the memory of the event(s).

Technqiues like EFT and EMDR can also be used as part of a longer therapy addressing more chronic forms of trauma (such as being subjected to chronic bullying, physical abuse or incest). These and other interventions are specifically designed to heal both the memories and the bodily reactions and return the child to his normal state. In addition, the Bach Flower Remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can help reduce temporary and chronic symptoms of trauma and is especially effective for home-management of symptoms inbetween psychotherapy sessions.

The good news is that children respond well to treatment of trauma. They can experience a complete healing of their symptoms and a return to “normalcy.” In fact, children are often even happier, calmer and more mature after trauma therapy than they were before the traumatic event(s) occurred.

Fear of Dentist

Many children are afraid of going to the dentist. Can you blame them? Many adults also shudder at the thought of having dental work. But given that regular visits to the dentist are a necessity for dental health, it helps to be able to calm children’s fears of the dental chair as soon as possible.

If you’re a parent with a dentist-phobic child, consider the following:

Make the Quest for Great Teeth an Adventure
Children very rarely visit the dentist for serious dental matters. Mostly, the visits are for routine check-ups, cleaning or perhaps to pull out a loose milk tooth to make space for a permanent one. If parents can make these milestones exciting by attaching a rewarding activity to the dental visit, then visiting the dentist might even become something that the child looks forward to. For instance, arrange it so that every dental visit ends with a trip to the dollar store (“for being cooperative”) or a trip to the movie store to purchase something special for that night, or some other fun and appealing prize or reward.

Be a Good Dental Patient Yourself
The best way to show that there is nothing to fear from the dentist is to let your child watch as you undergo your check-up. Be a model patient! Don’t fret, fuss (or scream!) as you sit in the dental chair. Don’t let your child hear you complaining about an upcoming dental visit – your bad attitude might be catchy. Instead, come home and brag about your clean, white and healthy teeth – inspire your family to want the same.

Inform Your Practitioner
It wouldn’t hurt to inform your practitioner that your child is experiencing fear. You can also request that the dentist provide a short tour of his office and instruments, or engage your child in small talk as the check-up is going on. An understanding professional will take note of the problem and be more sensitive when interacting with your child. 

Consider a Pediatric Dentist
If the family’s general dental practitioner really gives your child the shakes, then consider a dentist that specializes in dentristy for children. These dentists are called pedodontists. Pedodontists go to extra lengths to make a dental visit comfortable for a child; from the way their office is set up, to the way they speak to children. They are also more aware than the general practitioner of the issues that trouble children about dentists.

Teach Your Child Some Techniques to Manage Anxiety While in the Dental Chair
Usually, it’s not your dentist that’s the problem; it’s the actual check-up that gives your child the shakes. Maybe your child just doesn’t like the sensation of someone poking metal instruments in his or her mouth (after all, who does?); maybe he or she doesn’t like sitting still for a very long time. Maybe there is a little pain or discomfort in the examination or treatment. If this is the case, perhaps a few anxiety management tools — visualization, breathing exercises and meditation—  can help your child cope. You might be able to bring a guided meditation CD or MP3 to the dental office – there are special ones made for children. But feel free to get yourself the adult version – imagining yourself on the beach instead of in the dentist’s chair is good for YOU as well as for your child, even if you aren’t particularly afraid.

School-Age Child Hates the Doctor

A child may hate his or her doctor for many reasons. Sometimes the personality of the doctor just doesn’t mesh with that of your child. Most often, the painful experiences encountered in the doctor’s office become associated with the doctor and the child then “hates the doctor.” Since children need routine check-ups and frequent medical care, it can be a real problem when a youngster hates the doctor.

If your child “hates the doctor,” consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
Your child may hate his doctor, but he still needs to see him or her on a regular basis. To help make your child become less hostile to your pediatrician or family doctor, try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming of the feelings. In this case, you might say something like, “I know you don’t like the doctor.” or “Last time the doctor hurt you. I know you didn’t like that.” The goal here is to simply show your child that you understand and accept whatever feeling he has towards his doctor. It’s the opposite of trying to talk your child out of his feelings by saying things like, “the doctor is really nice,” or “it’s not so bad,” or “don’t be a baby.” When a parent just accepts the feeling of a child without trying to change it, a funny thing often happens: the feeling changes by itself! It somehow becomes easier for the child to let it go. This happens a lot of the time, but not always. Whether or not the feeling changes, the child still has to see the doctor – but he is less likely to be upset with his parent. He’ll see that you understand and are sympathetic to his plight. This helps strengthen the parent-child bond. Moreover, because he sees that you do not reject his feelings, he actually becomes more emotionally intelligent over time. Emotional intelligence is associated with increased success in every area of life and at every age.

Reward Compliance When at the Doctor’s Office
Once you’ve arrived at the doctor’s office (however you managed to get there!), try to make the experience as positive and rewarding as possible. Bring along food treats, books or games to give to your child. Get him stickers or prizes (sometimes the doctor’s office gives them out). Provide as much positive reinforcement as you can for good behavior and compliance with the doctor, acknowledging the child’s appropriate behavior under difficult circumstances. Making the experience a positive one for your child can make the ordeal a lot easier for you now and in the future.

Some Children are Very Strong-Willed
If your child simply refuses to go the doctor despite your interventions, try using discipline and the 2X Rule (see Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice). Explain to your child why it is important to see the doctor, even if he hates to see him or her. If he still shows no sign of cooperation, warn him that refusing to go will lead to a negative consequence. For instance you can say, “If you continue to act this way, you will still have to go, but you will lose computer privileges for putting up such a fuss.”  One way or another, your child needs to visit the doctor. When he’s is consistently faced with a negative consequence for refusal to go, he will likely lose some of his resolve.

Foster Cooperation with Grandma’s Rule
In Grandma’s Rule, the parent refrains from bribing the child. Avoid saying to your youngster, “If you go to the doctor I’ll give you the new game I bought you.” There should be no “if”. This word makes it seem that going to the doctor is somehow up to the child. You want it to be clear that the child IS going to the doctor. As the parent, YOU are making the decision in this case. Therefore, replace the word “if” with the word “when” or  the phrase “as soon as,” as in “As soon as you go to the doctor you’ll get your new game.” Grandma’s Rule puts a pleasant activity AFTER a less pleasant one. Milk and cookies come AFTER the homework is completed. Computer time comes AFTER the room has been cleaned. Parents can use the words “when”, “after” and “as soon as” in order to encourage their child’s cooperation.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy to Help Reduce Emotional Distress
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. Bach Remedies are available at health food stores. They are safe enough for babies and pregnant women. Rescue Remedy is a pre-mixed Bach Flower Preparation that can take away strong feelings of fear and panic. This can be given right before a visit to the doctor. However, to prevent future upset, you can give your child Bach Remedies daily for awhile, until the negativity and/or fear works its way out of his system altogether. If your child is very strong willed and refuses to go to the doctor just because he doesn’t want to go, you can give him the remedy called Vine. If he is mad at the doctor because of previous negative experiences, you can give him Holly. If your child has a meltdown whenever he is supposed to see the doctor, you can try Cherry Plum. If your child is negative in general, tending to find fault with everything or everyone, try Beech. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until your child’s feelings improve. Start treatment again, if negativity returns. Eventually, his or her feelings should change permanently.

Consider Professional Help
If you simply cannot get your child to the doctor, consider getting professional advice from a mental health professional. It is not always necessary to have your child seen by the professional – sometimes the counselor can give you tips and strategies to apply at home. If the professional wishes to meet with the child directly in order to assess and possibly treat him, don’t tell your youngster that you’re taking him to a doctor! You’ll never get him there! Instead, you can say that you’ve arranged a meeting with a person who helps people (you can mention something that your child might want help with such as overcoming a fear, getting along better with a sibling or parent, or having less fights at home.)

Toddler Hates Doctor

Toddlers – at least the clever ones – have figured out that a visit to the doctor often means pain of some kind. Whether it’s a routine needle or an examination of a sore spot on the body, site the toddler may react intensely with tears or even tantrums. Subsequent visits are met with intense resistance; the child refuses to walk into the doctor’s office. Screaming toddlers can be difficult to lift and carry, viagra 40mg so this resistance poses a serious dilemma for parents.

If your child “hates the doctor, help ” consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
Even if your child hates her doctor, going there is mandatory. To lessen the struggle in getting her to do so, try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming (and accepting) of the child’s feelings. In this case, try telling your child things like, “I know you hate the doctor.” or “That doctor gave you a needle last time which you didn’t like.” Show you child you understand her feelings and are listening to her. Your sympathy and understanding does not mean she will not have to go. It simply will make getting her to go easier as she is able to release some of her feelings towards the doctor. Emotional Coaching is the opposite of discounting – a technique in which the parent tries to talk a child OUT of her feelings by saying things like, “Oh, it won’t be so bad,” or “Oh, you really like the doctor, remember?” Ironically, the acceptance of the feeling as it is  (“I know you don’t want to go”) helps the feeling to disappear much faster than any form of disagreement about it or discounting. If nothing else, the parent’s acceptance of the feeling makes the child feel less antagonistic and more friendly toward the parent. This can help increase cooperation.

Reward Compliance When at the Doctor’s Office
Once you’ve arrived at the doctor’s office (however you managed to get there!), try to make the experience as positive and rewarding as possible. Bring along food treats to give to your child. Get her stickers if the doctor’s office gives them out (if not, get her a reward of your own). Let your child bring along a favorite stuffed animal, so the doctor can examine it as well! Provide as much positive reinforcement as you can for good behavior and compliance with the doctor, even though she may hate him or her. Making the experience a positive one for your child can make the ordeal a lot easier for you now and in the future.

Some Children are Very Strong-willed
If your child simply refuses to go the doctor despite your interventions, try using discipline and the 2X Rule (see Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice). Explain to your child why it is important to see the doctor, even if she hates to see him or her. If your child still doesn’t want to come, warn her that there will be a consequence if she doesn’t cooperate with you. For instance you can say, “If you don’t come with me to the doctor, I’ll have to carry you into his office (into the car or wherever) and because of that you will not be allowed to play with your (name favorite toy) today.” Pick any consequence that you think might provide motivation for your child to cooperate. Even if she does not do an immediate turn-around, the punishment can help reduce future non-compliance.

Foster Cooperation with Grandma’s Rule
In Grandma’s Rule, the parent avoids bribing the child. Try not to tell your daughter, “If you go to the doctor you’ll get to watch your new movie.” There should be no “if” in your sentence. After all, you are not making the doctor’s visit optional. Your child IS going to the doctor. Therefore, replace the word “if” with the word “when,” “as soon as,” or “after,” as in “After we’re finished at the doctor, you’ll be able to watch your new movie,” or “As soon as you get into your car seat, you can have your treat,” or “When you get your coat on, I’ll give you your teddy.”

Let the Doctor Know
The doctor may be able to help change the child’s feelings, so do let the doctor know what you are going through with your toddler. Once the doctor understands the problem, he or she may make extra efforts to help the child find the visit fun or at least much more tolerable.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy to Help Reduce Emotional Distress
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. If your child is very strong willed and refuses to go to the doctor you can offer the remedy Vine. For little ones who are having temper tantrums or meltdowns, you can offer the pre-mixed Bach Remedy called Rescue Remedy. This mixture can actually turn off a tantrum: you can put a few drops of it on the child’s pulse points, or, if he’ll let you – you can put 4 drops in a small glass of water or milk and offer sips every couple of minutes. This process might make it easier to actually get to the doctor’s office and it can certainly help increase your child’s calm once he or she is in the office. Rescue remedy is a mixture of different bach flower remedies, useful in all times of intense fear, worry or distress. To prevent future problems with the doctor, you can give your child Bach Flower Remedies daily until you feel that the fear or negativity has completely receded. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle, choosing those remedies that you feel are most suitable for your child. Some to consider are: Mimulus (for specific fears), Vine (for stubborn, strong-willed or defiant behavior), Rock Rose (for panic), Cherry Plum (for out-of-control behaviors like meltdowns), and Holly (for anger). To prepare a treatment bottle, fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the problem seems sufficiently improved. Start treatment again, if it returns. Over time, Bach Flower Therapy can help the child react much more calmly to the idea of a medical visit!

Baby Doesn’t Like Doctor

Babies – especially the smart ones – can learn to dislike visits to the doctor. Young as they are, here they are able to remember that they don’t like being held down, adiposity weighed on a cold scale, pricked and prodded and even punctured (with a needle!). Babies who have health issues that require painful or uncomfortable medical interventions can develop particularly intense negative reactions to examination and treatment. Unfortunately, medical treatment is a necessity of life. Whether the baby likes it or not, there will be routine, exploratory and possibly even emergency visits to the doctor.

If your baby has learned to hate going to the doctor, consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching involves acknowledging and naming your child’s feelings. Though your baby may not understand the words you are saying, he or she will still understand the message you are trying to convey through body language and tone of voice. You can say, “You don’t like the doctor, do you?” or “The doctor hurt you last time you were there, didn’t he?” Cooing gently, indicating sympathy and understanding, you will be able to communicate your emotional support even to a pre-verbal child. At the doctor’s office, be sure to hold and stroke the baby even while the doctor performs an examination or intervention. Again, this communicates, “We’re here with you and we care about you. We know it hurts.” Although this approach isn’t going to make your baby like the doctor, it can help prevent or reduce trauma and leave the door open for developing a more positive doctor-patient relationship in the future.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy to Help Reduce Fear
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. It is safe enough for newborn babies and nursing mothers. Rescue Remedy is a potent mix of a few different Bach remedies, specially designed to address situational stress, panic, trauma and terror. Although it doesn’t always work (just like medication doesn’t always relieve a headache), it is usually very effective in calming a distraught child or adult. Since it is harmless, there is no reason not to try giving it to your baby before a visit to the doctor. It might just help!  Rescue Remedy can be found in health food stores around the world. Give your baby 4 drops of Rescue Remedy before you head to the doctor and again once you enter the examination room. The 4 drops can be added to any liquid (water, chocolate milk, juice, etc.) and sipped, or they can be applied directly to the baby’s body (pulse points, chest, tummy or wherever). Remedies can be taken with or without food and they do not interact with any medicine, herb, food or health condition.

Provide Special Treats
When you’re finished seeing the doctor, allow a few minutes (if possible!) for the baby to play with the toys in the office or to have a pleasant outing with you. Depending on your baby’s age, it might be appropriate to offer a treat, a story or a special toy. The idea is to help your baby associate the doctor’s visit with something nice afterward. This can reduce future stress and form positive associations between seeing the doctor and enjoying something extra nice. Obviously, if your baby is too sick to enjoy anything, getting home quickly will be the best treat of all!

Child Refuses to Go to Doctor

Children learn quite young (within the first moments of life, actually!) that doctors can cause pain. The astute infant and toddler knows that a visit to the pediatrician can mean that someone will be prodding, poking, touching sore spots and giving injections – ouch! The whole ordeal is sometimes followed by having to swallow some nasty tasting medical concoction for a week or longer. Moreover, many children are not fooled by the doctor’s friendly banter or even “prizes” that might be forthcoming – they want no part of it. These kids can become medical protestors, refusing to cooperate when it’s time to go to the doctor or receive their treatment.

If your child has issues with doctors or medical treatment, consider the following tips:

Some Children are More Sensitive to Pain
Avoid discounting your child’s reactions to medical examinations and interventions. Try not to to tell him that “it’s not so bad” or “it doesn’t hurt that much” or “you’re making a big deal out of nothing” or anything similar. Instead, use Emotional Coaching (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) to acknowledge your child’s feelings. For instance, say things like, “I know you don’t like it,” or “I know it hurts you,” or “I know it’s uncomfortable.” Acknowledging the child’s pain does NOT mean that he doesn’t have to go see the doctor or take his medicine! The child will have to do that anyway. It simply means that you understand his predicament. You understand his reaction. You’re sympathetic to it. You accept it as true for him. Again, all this doesn’t change the reality that he has to go to the doctor. However, it lessens his resistance somewhat and it even helps to release some of his upset (you know how much better YOU feel when someone understands you!). When using Emotional Coaching, remember to name your child’s feelings in one sentence (i.e. “I know you hate the taste of the medicine”) and give him the facts of the matter in a completely new sentence (i.e. “It’s unfortunate that they can’t make it taste better.” or “You have to have one dose now and another before bed.” or “After you have it, you can have your cookie.”). The important thing is NOT to join these two aspects (feelings and facts) using the word BUT as in “I know you hate the taste, but after you have it you can have your cookie.” The reason we don’t use the “but” word is that “but” discounts the acknowledgment of feelings that you just offered. It’s as if you’re saying, “I know you feel upset, but I don’t care!”

Reward Compliance When at the Doctor’s Office
Once you’ve arrived at the doctor’s office (however you managed to get there), try to make the experience as positive and rewarding as possible. For instance, bring food treats, games or books for your child to enjoy while waiting, and similar treats and/or activities for the way home “for being brave.” Read stories to your child while waiting to be seen. If your baby, toddle or older child is nervous, rub his or her back or – better still – offer a little hand-reflexology (detailed massage of the hand and fingers). Reflexology not only feels pleasant but actually calms the nervous system, reducing fear and anxiety. If the doctor’s office doesn’t provide prizes, stickers and the like, buy your own to give your toddler or young child on the way out of the examining room. The more you can pair fun, comforting and pleasant experiences with the painful and scary experience of visiting the doctor, the less resistance your child will have on future visits.

Some Children are Very Fearful
If your child suffers from anticipatory fear (worrying excessively about what’s going to happen) or if he has an actual phobia (like a needle phobia), you can offer him fear-reducing techniques according to his age level. You can also consult a mental health professional who can teach you the techniques to teach your child or who can treat your child directly. Some tools for reducing fear and worry include learning to make positive pictures instead of scary ones (visualization), learning how to slow down the breath to foster deep feelings of calm and relaxation, learning how to use acupressure techniques like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to calm or even remove the fear or phobia, learning how to use distraction and other mental tools effectively and so on.

Some Children are Very Strong-willed
Some kids just don’t like going to the doctor. In this group are those who don’t do what they don’t like to do – at least not without a battle. Gaining cooperation can involve using techniques like the CLeaR Method of positive reinforcement and the 2X-Rule for discipline (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details of both approaches). Discipline, for instance, might look like this: if your child refuses to cooperate with his medical treatment (taking medicine, therapy or injections), you can explain why it’s important for him. If he continues to balk, you can explain it a second time and add a warning such as “…and if you don’t cooperate with your treatment here at home, then (name a consequence such as the following) we will have to take you to the doctor so she can treat you in the office, because one way or another, you must have that treatment.”

Foster Cooperation with Grandma’s Rule
In Grandma’s Rule, the parent does not give an option to the child. Avoid telling your youngster “If you go to the doctor you’ll get a candy.” The word “if” structures a bribe strategy that is unhealthy. Instead you can say “When we get back from the doctor you can have a candy.” or “As soon as you’ve taken your medicine you can play on the computer.” Grandma’s Rule put the parent in charge rather than the child, which is as it should be.

Find Ways to Help your Child be More Involved
Have your child be as involved and in charge of his treatment as possible. If he needs to take medicine in the evening, let him decide what time in the evening he will take it each day. If he needs to get cast or a bandage, let him select the type and color of it. When your child feels less like a victim, he’ll may cooperate more and be happier.  

Consider Bach Flower Therapy to Help Reduce Fear
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future.  Every health food store carries Bach Remedies, and especially the pre-mixed one called “Rescue Remedy.” Rescue Remedy is a potent mix of a few different flower remedies, useful for times of panic, injury or hysteria. You can give your child Rescue Remedy as you leave home for the doctor’s office, as well as right after he or she receives any uncomfortable or painful medical intervention. To help prevent anxiety and stress related to future doctor’s visits, you can provide regular Bach Flower Therapy. This involves selecting a few remedies that your child might benefit from and mixing them together in a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle. You give this mixture to your child daily until doctor-related distress has diminished totally. Some useful remedies for this purpose include the following: Mimulus, which helps all fears and phobias, Rock Rose which helps feelings of panic, and Cherry Plum, which is used for loss of control (as when your child has a meltdown). Consider the remedy Vine if your child is very strong willed and refuses to cooperate with the medical visit. The flower remedy White Chestnut is useful for those children who worry obsessively in advance of the visit, especially those who lose sleep due to an overanxious mind. To mix your selected remedies together in one treatment bottle, fill the Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the fear has dissipated. Start treatment again, if the fear returns. Over time, Bach Flower Therapy can help the fear diminish completely.

Consult a Mental Health Professional
If you’ve tried all of the above suggestions and your child is still suffering intensely from fears of doctors or medical treatments, consult a mental health professional. Ask your pediatrician for a referral. Mental health professionals may be able to give you added strategies to try at home and they can also treat your child directly, using specialized interventions that can help the child overcome anxious feelings. Often, a child only requires a short course of treatment for a specific phobic reaction like fear of doctors or medical treatment.

Handling Emergencies

Life is predictably unpredictable. Everyone experiences various unexpected “emergencies.” Some emergencies are of an emotional nature. For instance, sometimes an adolescent goes into crisis because of the breakup of an important relationship. Other emergencies are of a physical nature. For instance, sometimes a child gets injured and requires stitches or surgery. Some emergencies involve catastrophic events such as tsunamis, acts of war, rape and other traumas. Some emergencies are more mundane, involving broken ovens the evening the in-laws are coming for dinner or stalled cars on the way to important meetings.

Modeling Coping Strategies
The way in which a parent handles an emergency becomes a model engraved in a child’s brain. If a parent gets hysterical in the face of emergency, a child learns that hysteria is the correct response to crisis. If a parent stays calm and level-headed, a child learns that one can hold oneself together in the face of overwhelming events. Many adults who cope poorly with emergencies are the products of parents who did the same. Consider whether this is the style of coping YOU want to pass on to your children (and grandchildren!).

Helping Children Cope with Emergencies
Children look to adults to see what to do in the case of an emergency. Someone suddenly collapses into a faint – how do the adults cope? What do they do? Someone gets badly injured and is bleeding through his clothes and onto the floor. What do the adults do? What emotions do they show? What do they say?

If it is the child himself who is in a state of emergency, he still observes how his parents are handling the situation. However, he has the added experience of noting how HE is handled during the crisis. Are people shouting at him? Are they speaking in soothing, reassuring tones? Are they grabbing him or handling him sensitively? A child or teen who is in shock will do much better with steady, confident caregivers. Suppose the child has fallen and is in agony with a bone protruding where it should not. Slow, calm movements will both ease her physical pain and her emotional distress. The last thing the child needs is a parent who is screaming or running madly around. Calm handling actually facilitates the healing process.

Many parents are ready and prepared for inevitable crises. Some keep the Bach Flower called Rescue Remedy on hand in a cupboard and/or purse. The first step during any emergency of any kind is to reach for these drops that settle the body, mind and emotions. The tincture helps people to cope well with sudden shock, bad news, terrifying conditions, intense fear and other reactions to intensely upsetting events. Even having such a potion on hand gives children the message that the unexpected in life is always expected and that there are steps one can and must take in order to handle those situations well. You can find more information on Rescue Remedy and Bach Flowers online or in books.

Although one cannot be prepared for every disaster scenario, nor does one need to be, it is certainly helpful to think about how one ideally WANTS to manage in situations of intense stress and upset. What do you WANT your kids to know? What do you need to do for yourself, in order to be able to provide them with the healthiest model of coping? Instead of accidentally passing on dysfunctional ways of coping, parents can think about the messages and models they received and evaluate their current utility. Perhaps there is a better way. Perhaps some counseling is needed in order to repair past learning. Conscious parenting always empowers parents to do their best in every situation.