Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eight Ways to Help Your Child Through a Traumatic Doctor Visit


I rubbed her soft folded hands and watched a tear full of anxiety and pain and fear run down her cheek and soak into the examining table’s paper cover. I wanted to lay down on that table for her and let the nurse jab me with the sharp syringe full of anesthesia. I was grateful for the doctor’s tenderness even as I held back my own tears, watching his sharp blade scrape off the funny little cyst that had been growing on my six-year-old’s cheek for many months. And then, from my adult perspective, it was over in a moment. But I wonder, from her child’s perspective, how long that little procedure seemed to stretch.

The doctor dug deep to make sure he got all of the cyst.

How did she make it through? She’s always been a tough little cookie, but I’d like to think that I helped a little with the following.

Talk about it. We had been talking about her weird little bump for months, so she knew that, at some point, she would see the doctor. The week before, I mentioned infrequently that she would be seeing the doctor on Friday. I told her that I didn’t know what exactly he might do but that a shot might be involved. I made sure she knew everything that I knew so that there were as few surprises as possible. No child – no person – wants to be blind-sided by pain.

Bring a comfort object. Noelle loves her stuffed animals and brought the polar bear she had received at the emergency room a few years earlier. She even pointed out to me where she had bled on the bear. (Of course, I’ve washed it since!) Apparently, that bear provides soft and fuzzy comfort when she is around doctors and their painful procedures.

Physical touch. I held her hand as we walked into the building, into the office, and back into the examining room. We sat together on the examining table, and I held my arm around her. During the procedure, I held her hands gently in mine. Yes, I was prepared to hold them down if she should struggle, but I knew my touch would help ground her.

Comforting words. I get very self-conscious when I talk to my children around others. I’m afraid, I suppose, that they realize I’m the complete moron that I already know I am. But I forced myself to overcome this and spoke softly to her throughout the procedure. I told her that she was doing fine, that we would go get special band-aids, that it was almost over. I asked her what kind of pizza she wanted for supper that night.

Prayer. Before the appointment and on the drive to the office, I bathed the entire visit in prayer. Our family had prayed together the night before. Sitting in the exam room with her, I told her that I had been praying for her.

Permission to cry. At no point did I tell her to be “a big girl” and not cry. When the procedure was over, I pulled her onto my lap and held her close, and the dam broke.

The promise of a treat after. It wasn’t much, but we stopped at Target and she was excited to chose Strawberry Shortcake band-aids to wear as a badge of honor. Then, we went for pizza.

Everything's better with a pretty bandage!

Time it right. Don’t plan a major doctor or dentist visit at a time when you know your child will be tired or hungry. Quite frankly, I could have done this better since Noelle does still nap and her appointment was at 2:00. But she is six and has skipped naps before. If this had been my three-year-old, I would have been much more careful.

I know many of you have survived procedures and appointments much more significant than this. Do you have anything to add or anything you would do differently? I’d love your input.











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24 comments:

  1. awww... such a sweet little girl. I'm glad everything went well. These are great ideas! My mom definitely used a lot of them with me when I was little. :) Shots were always the worst, even in high school...I went on a trip to Hong Kong and then three years later to Indonesia, and I needed a ton of shots for those. Even at seventeen, I still needed to hold my mom's hand. :)

    You, Meghan, are a great mom. :)

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    1. Sounds like you have a great mom, Jaimie. Thanks for your kind words.

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  2. I know how hard those times can be. I'm glad she is doing ok.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. The cyst is being tested, but the doctor didn't think it was anything bad.

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  3. Our 8 year old son just went through a very tramatic experince. He fell into our fire pit and was burn very badly. We had to stay in the hospital for a few days which when they did the debreadment and doing skin grafts he was in so much pain. Each doctor vist has been painful also. But he is a trooper and we have found that alot of these things you mentioned help. The only problem we have now is that his trust in our touch is not all there. Resectfully so because every time we have to clean and dress his burns it hurts. Now that he is not in pain anymore he still jumps. I pray he will over come this soon. God was and still is with us and He will bring us thru to the other side.

    I pray your daughter will be 100% fast :)
    God Bless,
    Jen

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    1. Oh, Jen, I just read your blogs and saw the photos and my daughter's little appointment was nothing compared with what you are going through! I'm sure you could write a much better list than mine. My family and I will be praying for you and your son. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    2. Thank you for your prayers. Heavenly Father has been there every step of the way. He is so amazing! We today are playing at a friends house which is a huge step for him. He is still so nervous about someone touching him which is what we are working through is the anxiety of the pain. Does your daughter have any anxiety about anything?

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    3. Jen, she is anxiety personified! (Dare I say, just like me?) My efforts to bolster her courage, though, to believe us when we say everything will be fine and to get to know and trust the Lord, have helped me as well. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

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  4. We have dealt with this a lot in the last year. Our Hannah was diagnosed with cancer in May 2011, when she was six. She has been through a lot of tests and treatments, and the most helpful thing we found was talking about it. And the most important thing about talking about it is telling the truth. You would be surprised at how many people wanted to spring things on her, sugar coat it, or just plain lie.

    Hannah was scheduled to get an ultrasound of her kidneys one morning. We had discussed it and she had ultrasounds before. She was fine with it. When transportation came to get her, she was asleep due to anti-nausea meds. They just happened to mention that the doctors ordered a different (VCUG) test. The new test was invasive, more painful, and Hannah knew nothing about it. They wanted to take her down while she was asleep, without explaining anything. I made them reschedule it until after the meds wore off so we could talk about it and she wouldn't be blindsided by this unknown thing they wanted to do to her. They were very unhappy, but there wasn't much they could do about it. Hannah had a hard time with the test, but after it was over she told me she was so glad I hadn't let them take her while she was sleeping. She said that would have been far worse.

    As a result of all Hannah and I have gone through together this year, we have become very close and she trusts me. She knows I will tell her the truth no matter what, and I won't let anyone else get away with lying to her either. She is a real trooper.

    We are praying for your girlie to get better fast. Hannah wanted to say that those band-aides are the best and she has some just like it.

    Blessings,
    Melinda

    http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/prayforhannah

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    1. Melinda, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story here! I love your point about her trust of you because you won't let anyone else get away with lying to her. You are a strong mama, coming through what, to me, seems like the unthinkable. We'll be praying for Hannah and your family, and thank you for sharing your link.

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  5. Those visits are never fun, but good prep can help...for some. Some of my kids did better with little time to fret so a quick set up on the way was the best for them.
    Keep up the God work.

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    1. That's an excellent point about knowing what works best for each child. Noelle can get rather weepy, so I knew she would need to let loose at some point. Thanks, Lori!

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  6. Such good, good words here. I love that you give your child permission to cry. That's so important. Thank you for linking your words today.

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    1. Thanks for the link-up opportunity, Jennifer! You have a great blog!

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  7. I love how you've taken a painful experience you went through with your daughter and are turning it into a helpful guide for others who might experience this as well, Meghan. And your tips are so practical and insightful! Thanks for your caring heart for your daughter and for moms/kids who might/will experience this scenario.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Beth, and thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Oh my heart....bless hers. I am quite sure I would have been a basket case! I like to think it would have only been on the inside...but...I'm not so sure!

    very practical tips. Glad we were neighbors today over at Denise in Bloom!

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    1. Thanks, Nikki. (I'm one of your e-mail subscribers, and I'm enjoying your blog!)

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  9. What great tips! My three are so little that we haven't had many dr visits besides the well baby and occasional sick visit. At about 14 months, my first had what was thought to be MRSA on his leg (turned out to be a skin strep infection). Poor guy had a high fever and I had to hold him down while the doc did a scraping for the lab and cleaned the wound on his leg. Broke my heart!

    Thanks for linking up at Thrive@Home!

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    1. I hate holding down my children, but I'd rather do it myself than see someone else do it. I hope my touch is more reassuring to them (even though I'm forcing them down) than a stranger's. Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the link-up opportunity!

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  10. Wonderful list! I'm looking forward to my daughter being old enough to explain things like this to her. Thanks for linking up to Thrive @ Home! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jenni, and thanks for the link-up!

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  11. Great ideas, I need to remember to bring in an animal or cozy. I like to talk about being brave. They love the story of David and Goliath so I try to tell them that they need to try to be brave just like David was. Sometimes I bring a snack with us, but I will try to do what you suggested and give it to them as a reward for being brave. Thanks for linking up to Mom's Library. It's always a pleasure to read your posts.

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    1. That's a good idea -- talking about the bravery of David. I'll try to remember that for next time. Thanks so much, Tulip, for your kind words.

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