I have an article on helping children cope with doctor’s visits and shots elsewhere on the website. (Link: http://howardjbennett.com/medical-articles/help-your-child-cope-with-doctors-visits/) Today, I wanted to mention a simple technique that can improve the way medical visits go for toddlers and young children. For this to work, you need three things.

  • An older child who likes seeing the doctor.
  • A schedule that allows you to bring the older child to the toddler’s visit.
  • A doctor who is willing to “examine” the older child first.

It’s common for children to bring a “lovey” to doctor’s appointments to make the visits less stressful. Over the years, I have examined hundreds of stuffed animals from dogs to sharks to giraffes. The purpose of this fake exam is twofold. First, it shows the child you like to play. Second, it empowers the child so the visit is less threatening.

During my 30 years in pediatric practice, I have noticed that an older brother or sister can do an even better job reassuring toddlers that a medical checkup isn’t the worst thing in the world. A cooperative sibling can help in situations where a stuffed animal cannot. Here’s why.

  • Toddlers know stuffed animals aren’t real. However, if an older sibling says the ear exam doesn’t hurt, it may carry more weight.
  • Younger siblings generally look up to their brothers and sisters and want to be like them. This encourages the toddler to overcome his fear of the examination.
  • The presence of the older child may act as a distraction making it easier for the toddler to stay still during the examination.

Although older siblings can help with the medical exam, they are less effective when it comes to blood tests or shots. Consequently, unless you have remarkable kids, I wouldn’t ask the older one to tackle that task.