The holiday just before my girls were three, they got a toy doctor kit. Immediately, it was a huge hit. They checked out all their babies, and each of their stuffed animals took a visit to the vet clinic.
I made a big deal, talking about each of the different instruments, what they were used for…and how they were just like the ones Dr. F, our pediatrician, uses. We took turns being the doctor, the nurse, and the patient, and I made a point to work into the scenario that someone was scared.
“I understand you feel scared, Mr. Bear, but you know Dr. A. She’s been taking excellent care of you since you were a tiny cub. First, she’s going to listen to your heart. What a cool stethoscope! Ooh…is it cold? Does it tickle? I know it does hurt.”
“Now she’s going to take a little peek in your ears. It’s OK…there’s no need to be scared! She’s just checking to make sure you didn’t lose any bananas in there.”
“This little band measures your blood pressure, how fast your blood is dancing around inside your body. Is your arm ready for a hug???”
The girls got very accustomed to the routine, and soon they were repeating it to all their babies. They were very encouraging, even to the most scared bear cub.
The real key (advice I got from a friend) was the positioning of the shot. There’s truly nothing to be afraid of as far as the exam goes, right? But shots hurt…no way around it. And that’s the approach I took with the girls.
“Mr. Bear, it’s time for a shot. It will hurt, but ONLY for a second! Then you’ll be ALL DONE and then we’ll go do something fun / get a sticker / have an ice cream [insert reward of choice]!”
My girls are now almost six, and they haven’t cried at the pediatrician — even for shots — since before they were three. Empowering them with information and perspective has made visits to the pediatrician nothing to sweat.
(And, as a side note, my girls still play with their doctor kit almost daily. “Vet” is a huge theme at our house. That’s what both girlies say they want to be when they grow up, and they make sure to get lots of practice.)
MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls, A and B. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.