Enjoying visits to the doctor and dentist

Your child can become familiar and comfortable with these visits by seeing you being examined by a doctor and having your teeth checked by a dentist. Wait until they are old enough to ask questions (approximately two years plus) or take another adult along to mind the child. Preferably, don’t start when you are having wisdom teeth removed — something easy would be best.

Before you go, explain simply what is going to happen. If you like, you can ring the receptionist beforehand or ask when you arrive if your child can watch and learn. For some parents, this is challenging. Some find it hard enough to relax and cope with the dentist’s drills and injections or to feel comfortable with the intimacy of a doctor performing a physical examination. Surprisingly, though, we can often teach ourselves to be more calm, positive and relaxed, when we are busy putting on a show to reassure our child.

Many dentists and doctors are friendly and interested in children, and know the benefits of having a child who feels at ease. Dentists even let children sit in the chair and show them the ‘magic’ toothbrushes which tickle their fingers. They are getting to know a familiar face and name, have seen and tried some of the equipment and, importantly, have heard the noises and smell the smells in an atmosphere of adventure and interest. If more of us had this beginning, we would be happier patients.

Soon, your child will be saying: ‘I want to see Dr Stone, he’ll make my ache better’ or: ‘I like Mai, he’s my best dentist.’

Sue, 26 ‘I was on my way to the doctor for a breast examination and was trying to think how to explain this to my three-year-old because he wants to know about everything. So I said: “The doctor wants to check parts of my body to see if they are all working well” and I told him he’d probably look at my eyes, ears, chest, heart and breasts. In the waiting room, my son said, in a very loud voice, “Mummy, is doctor going to feel your breasts?” I said: “Yes, now where are the blocks?”, tr,ying to distract him and hoping the other patients hadn’t really heard. But it got worse. “Does doctor like to feel your breasts, Mummy?” Well, they heard that time!’

– Do the kids look happy and play well, or are there angry-looking cliques or a lack of spontaneous, happy play?

– Are the staff reasonably relaxed or are they over-worked and under-appreciated?

– Does the school have reasonable standards of cleanliness and safety, such as boundary fences?

– What do other parents think of the school?

– Ask to meet your child’s teacher.

– Go back to the school a couple of times, so that you both get used to the physical setting, size, smell, sounds.

– Allow your child to go inside the toilet block.

– Take them on a boundary walk, so they can look back to see the position of the classrooms from different angles.

– Let them play on the equipment — it’s a big drawcard!

– Help your child to rehearse the teacher’s name.

– It certainly helps to have a friend to start school with.

– If you are new to the area, ask the principal to suggest a local family with whom you could make contact, then the kids could meet before school begins.

Remember that if you are confident and enthusiastic about your child going to school, it is highly likely they will feel good about it, too.