Recently my 2.5 year had a bad fall and unfortunately got a pretty big cut on his forehead. We were at the playground and it was one of those things; His feet somehow got tangled together where he was standing so he randomly tripped and of course had to hit is head on the sharpest sidewalk edge I’ve ever seen.. and all of a sudden there was blood everywhere..!
It’s always scary when our children get hurt. But for many parents it’s the actual trip to the hospital they dread the most; The x-ray, putting on the cast or the stitches!
In our case stitches were definitely needed and we ended up spending that afternoon at the hospital where B ended up getting no less than 6 of them!
All in all it actually went pretty well, considering. When we were all done and I’m helping B down from the hospital bed he looked up to me and said the last thing I expected to hear;
“That was fun!”
That.Was.FUN?? I still can’t get over the fact that these were the first words out of his mouth after the whole thing! Surely this was not fun.. I mean, he cried SO hard when they injected the anaesthetic… But when I thought about it there was also a lot of cooperation and calm. All in all it actually went incredibly well and I do have a pretty good idea why.
I believe the main reason getting stitches turned out to be a positive experience for B is that he was involved in the whole process. From start to finish he was prepared, aware and given a chance to cooperate and take full part in whatever was being done.
And let me tell you, that simply makes ALL the difference!
It’s truly impossible for our kids to cooperate if they don’t know what to expect.
Four key things to keep in mind
Here are the 4 KEY things I try to keep in mind when going to the doctors/dentist or getting through a painful procedures with kids like getting stitches or shots.
First and foremost, we need to be calm and collected ourselves. Our children sense our energy and it is SO important to project security and confidence.
Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare. I can not over empathise how crucial it is to prepare our kids for the situation at hand. Walk them through what is about to happen step by step in as much detail as you can. Be honest and real; Tell them if things might hurt, be uncomfortable or a bit painful, call the tools the doctor or dentist will be using their real names and don’t talk “around” things, try to be open and honest.
See, preparing our children for what is to come is an important part of setting them up for success. They need time to process and prepare. It’s truly impossible for our kids to cooperate if they don’t know what it is that will be happening to them.
Involve them and explain what’s happening. During the procedure or whatever it is that you’re going through. Make sure to show your child the tools that are being used, explain what is about to happen and what the doctor/nurse/dentist is or is about to be doing.
Some doctors naturally move slower around children, are respectful and appreciate the value of involving the while others are just the opposite. I have found it very helpful to start off by letting the doctor know that I want him to show all the tools and involve my child as much as possible. If he moves faster than I would like I gently suggest he show us the cotton ball he’s soaking in water or show us the sound that the thermometer makes… I have found this sets the scene for the rest of the appointment. During the whole thing I myself make sure to explain, sportscast and basically narrate whatever is happening which usually has a calming effect and helps the child not feel too overwhelmed or confused.
Acknowledge feelings instead of distracting. It is VERY common to want to distract children from the uncomfortable or painful things that needs to get done. Surprising our children with a vaccination shots while they listen to a joke or watch a colourful toy spin in circles will only create MORE insecurities and fear of doctors.
Instead, again.. prepare, then explain and involve your child, show them the shot, and show them the spot where it will be injected, tell them that yes, it will probably be a bit painful and rather ask them if they want to get it in the thigh or in the arm. Ask them if they want to watch the shot or watch the other way. Involve them!
First and foremost, trust. Instead of deciding for your child that it’s too much for them to handle, that there is no way they can actually cooperate through a tough procedure, that they don’t even understand much of what needs to be done anyway…. try giving them a chance. Because they might just surprise you with their competence and cooperation, and who knows…. They even might end up thinking the whole experience was “fun!!”…