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Updated: January 10, 2013 10:45 AM | By Tamar Satov
How to help relieve your child's fear of the doctor

Visits to the pediatrician are a rite of parenthood. If your kid has a fear of the doctor or dentist, it's time to conquer it.

Dreading the doctor (© Glow Images)
  • Dreading the doctor (© Glow Images)
  • Acknowledge their fears (© Mlenny/iStockphoto.com)
  • Desensitize through exposure (© ImagesbyTrista/iStockphoto.com)
  • Tell them what to expect (© Camrocker/iStockphoto.com)
  • Offer some control (© sjlocke/iStockphoto.com)
  • Provide distractions (© jhorrocks/iStockphoto.com)
  • Consider pain relief (© CandyBoxImages/iStockphoto.com)
  • Seek out help (© Yuri_Arcurs/iStockphoto.com)
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Dreading the doctor

It’s not unusual for kids to have a fear of doctors (the medical term for this is iatrophobia). Certainly, a child’s personality and threshold for pain can make a difference, but there’s also a cognitive element, says Liz Siydock, a child life specialist at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. She helps kids deal with health-care-related fears and anxieties. “Fear is created; we are not born with it,” she says, adding that adults often inadvertently instill fear in children. For example, if a well-meaning parent says, “Don’t worry,” the child — who may not have been worried at all — now thinks, “Should I be worried?"

Similarly, if a parent says a needle “won’t hurt a bit,” the child may feel betrayed when she feels even a small amount of pain. So what can you do to prevent or alleviate fears of the doctor or dentist? Read on for some tips.

A version of this article appeared in our December 2012 issue with the headline "Dreading the doctor," pp.36-8.

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