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.)

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