Is Your Child Afraid of Going to the Doctor?

If your young child is fearful of going to the doctor, there are many things you can do to help them feel calmer and to prepare them for their next visit.

If your child is fearful of the pediatrician, the examination, or the procedures, using visuals/pictures can go a long way to help decrease anxieties by letting your child know what to expect.  Many children

* who are anxious,

* who have difficulty following verbal directions,

* who are on the autism spectrum,

* who have frequent visits with painful procedures,

* who don’t know what to expect,

* or who struggle with behaviors,

may be so afraid of the doctor’s office that it is hard to have a fully productive visit.


Pretend Play: Assign a role, i.e., Child, Nurse, Doctor, Parent, to a stuffed animal/doll/child and use visuals to prompt story starters that can be acted out.

Role-Play: Set up a visual schedule and take turns being the child in the story.

Visit: Call ahead and see if a nurse will give you and your child a tour of your clinic.  If you do this, you can take pictures and use these as visuals to help your child remember the places and people they will see.

A Visual Schedule: Place pictures or visuals in sequence and remove visuals as each step is accomplished. It may be helpful to include an after-the-doctor treat such as going to the park, the library, or a play date.

Books: Go to the library and read books about going to the Dr.

Make Your Own Book or “Social Story”:  Use pictures or purchased visuals to write a story that is specific to your child.  Write or draw in details that may be specific to your child’s doctor visit.

Making & Using Visuals – 3-minute Video:







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  1. This is an excellent post. As a young child I had to receive allergy shots several times a week at the pediatricians office. I used to bawl each day when we would get on the elevator. My parents worked hard with our pediatrician to make my memories more positive than negative. Eventually the pain of the shots disappeared and I looked forward to the friendly faces, fun toys, and simple rewards that were also parts of the visit. I know that many families will be grateful for the suggestions you have provided in this post.

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