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.