Shots, Dental Work, Dealing with Potentially Painful Situations SWH

Updated on May 04, 2019
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
8 answers

When my daughter was a toddler, she was extremely good at dealing with shots and getting dental checkups. At only 2 years old, she didn't cry when she got multiple shots at her 2 year well child visit. When she got the flu shot at age 3, she didn't even blink an eye. I began taking her to a pediatric dentist at age 2 and she never made a fuss. All doctors/nurses/dentists/dental hygienists always commented on how "brave" she was.

She will be 7 in a few months and about 1.5-2 years ago, that all changed. She did a complete 180. I'm not sure what happened and I'm left scratching my head. Each visit to the doctor for a shot, twice annual dental check up and cleaning, and even getting her to wiggle her wiggly teeth (as recommended by her pediatric dentist) has become a struggle.

I talk to her about the procedures in advance and they're nothing she hasn't done before. No one ever makes a big deal of them. She understands that the pain is momentary and whatever it is will be over quickly. For instance, when she got her flu shot last year, she made a fuss, but afterwards indicated that it wasn't so bad. But it keeps happening and seems to be getting worse. I'm so frustrated -- these types of behaviors are supposed to get better, not worse, with time!

What can I do to calm her down/sit still in these situations? It's now to the point that it is becoming difficult for her providers to do what they need to do. Just last week, she was getting her teeth cleaned and it took a lot longer than it should have because she wouldn't sit still.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I don't think I over-discuss things with her. I would just tell her that she has an appointment and they would clean her teeth like before. Nothing more. It got so bad at one of her flu shot appointments that the nurse asked me to have her sit on me so that I could wrap my legs around her legs and wrap my arms around her arms so she could keep her still.

But thank you for the reminder that kids don't progress in straight lines. I guess I need to remind myself that it's not just toddlers and younger children who go through developmental "stages." She is tall for her age with teenagerish attitude and sophisticated vocabulary -- sometimes I forget she's not even 7 yet.

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answers from San Diego on

Why not try letting her play doctor or dentist?
Have her practice giving shots or cleaning teeth. There are medical toys out there, but you can use a pen or toothbrush. For fun you be the unruly child. See how she handles you. It’s about control and preparation. She is becoming aware of her environment.

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answers from Springfield on

Sometimes you have to stop asking yourself why things are happening or why she is doing something and just go with what works.

At 7 years old, explaining things and always trying to prepare her is actually adding to the stress. She doesn't care why she needs a shot. She only cares that it hurts. Many kids do better if you wait until the nurse has the needle and then say, "Oh, it's time for your flu shot," and then just give it to her right away ... no time for her to become anxious.

I used to think it was horrible when parents said, "Because I said so," or didn't take the time to explain to their child why they needed to do something. That's simply not always age appropriate. At 7 years old, it's just too much. It's overwhelming. Sometimes, "Because I said so," is a very important reason, because they need to learn (and trust) that their parents are in charge and taking care of them.

Focus less on explaining the doctor's visit to her. Instead, remind her that it's time to go to the doctor and that her job is to be polite and cooperate and then give her praises along the way. "Thank you for being patient while we waited to be called in. We have to wait for our turn, and sometimes that takes awhile." "Good job standing nice and tall for the nurse to measure your height." "That blood pressure cuff is kind of tight, but you weren't scared at all!" Build her up as much as you can, and she will start to relax and be less nervous. But if you tell her everything ahead of time, she's just going to sit there and let her anxiety build and build and build until she reaches a breaking point.

Honestly, why is she doing this? Because she's 7. Her behavior is very normal. You might not always be able to relate to her feelings, but that doesn't make them any less valid. Focus on helping her learn how to cope and how to respond, rather than trying to talk her out of them.

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answers from Boston on

You have so many prior posts about your daughter and her obsessions with various things, her unusual ways of expressing emotions, and her emotional/social maturity.

I think this just may be your kid. I think she may be giving you a run for your money for a while.

All I can suggest is that you stop talking about these things so much. I know you want to be open and thorough, but it doesn't seem like it's working. I wonder if you should change tactics, and discuss things much less instead of more. You might just take her to the doctor, and empower her to ask the doctor what's next. Let the professionals handle her - maybe she's getting too much info for her little brain, and she's thinking too much too far in advance. Emphasize that appointments are for checking and asking/answering questions, and it's up to her to start to answer the doctor's questions when she can. I think you might consider not being in the room for everything - let the nurse measure/weigh her, do the eye chart, whatever else is on the schedule for that day. Maybe they can let your daughter listen through the stethoscope or do some simple math to figure out how many pounds or inches have been added since the last time - no quizzing, just fun games. Let them have some rapport with her - you can be in the other room "filling out forms" or "paying the bill" or "checking on your brother" while she just does a few things with the nurse. Don' say, "I'll come back in when the doctor comes in" or "I'll be with you before they do XYZ" - just reassure her you're nearby and she can ask what she needs to ask without waiting for you. You might say that it's more efficient and you can all go for ice cream or hamburgers sooner if you divvy up the appointment, or you can say you have to go to the bathroom...whatever will work.

I think you may be just talking too much to this kid, and she's getting worked up. I'm not saying you're causing it, but maybe it's just feeding in to her insecurity. I have a cousin who has to know everything and rehearse every possible scenario and outcome, and it's so unhealthy for him. I hope your daughter moves through this phase soon, and I think sometimes too much info gives kids some more stuff to worry about.

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answers from Washington DC on

kids don't progress forward in nice neat straight lines.

you handled her sensibly when she was 2. good for you.

continue to handle her sensibly now. who knows why it's become a fear, but fears aren't rational. they do, however, need to be handled sympathetically and rationally.

i wouldn't flap and squawk about this too much. you don't want to feed into it. i also wouldn't go overboard on soothing and petting and calming. that generally sends the message that this is Something Big that requires much soothing and petting and calming.

if one of mine got in the dentist chair and became hard to work with, i'd fix 'em with a cold stare and say 'knock it off.'

then, assuming they do, there would be some sort of treat afterwards. if it turned into a dramafest, there would be little acknowledgement beyond, 'i'm disappointed. hope next time goes better.'


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answers from San Francisco on

I suggest checking out a few books on child development. Humans don't grow on a perfectly upright cuve. In fact, there are periods of regression at certain ages. It's been a while for me (mine are all grown now) but I seem to remember it was roughly every three years, so a child who "slept well" for example at age three may go through periods of anxiety or nightmares at night at age six. This makes perfect sense for DR visits as well, because as your child matures she has new fears and questions, even if she can't articulate them, she's growing up after all!
I'm honestly not sure why this is a problem, taking longer than normal at an appointment? Your care providers are trained and more than able to handle your child's ever developing personality.
You need to understand this NOW because you are going to have a rude awakening when your previously sweet and charming 9 year old turns into a a sullen, nasty 12 year old.
There's a reason raising children has been compared to riding a rollercoaster for 18 years. You will be thrilled and happy and sick and scared for many years to come, so buckle up!
ETA: of course I am assuming your daughter doesn't have any special needs or other factors to consider.

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answers from Portland on

ETA - I think I mistook your child for another one on here, so changing my suggestion. I do think realizing kids sometimes do regress or get a bit anxious at different times in their lives is 'normal' (age 7 is a big change/leap in development for kids) so you may see some growth in the next year or so. When very small, kids don't really get it - and are trusting, and so they seem really good about this stuff. They like being told they're doing 'great'. When they hit school and become more independent, they are like 'wait a minute - this isn't so fun' and they start to react a bit. Totally typical. I remember realizing the dentist sucked at that age. Plus, they do more to kids once they hit school. Preschool - they are just counting teeth and stuff and making babyish sounds to kids. They do give shots, but kiddos are a little clueless until your daughter's age.

Don't over explain (I just kept it super simple and don't talk about procedures in advance). I have a kid with anxiety - and this works for me. It just causes them to worry in advance.

Grounding (when there if they get worked up) is a good technique - see 5 things, hear 4 things, touch 3 things, etc. (look it up) to keep her distracted. Gets their breathing under control and focused off what they are doing/the upsetting thing. Teaches them they can handle it/empowers her.

It's pretty typical. Mine don't like needles/dentists. Sometimes some of this stuff is just something you get through. I don't reward either. Just life. High five is about it. Hug. You did great kiddo. Off you go. :)

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answers from Chicago on

As others have said, it’s not at all unusual for development to be more of a roller coaster or hilly road than a straight shot. It’s not at all unusual for toddlers to appear braver than school age children because toddlers don’t have the anticipation to deal with, often harder, as you’ve pointed out, than the actual shot. I had a child who was terrified of shots at that age and hadn’t had any worries as a younger child. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge the worry, make a coping plan, and get through it.

I’m not sure I understand the difficulties with getting her teeth cleaned though, that shouldn’t be painful? What does your daughter say about that? I would suggest you try to be confident that she will be fine, even if she experiences stress. You are wanting her to be “good” and “brave”, which is understandable but not helpful to her. Try letting go of your hope that she will be worry free in these situations, and focus on helping her develop a toolbox for getting through them, maybe meditation, music from headphones…...brainstorm with her what she thinks would be helpful.

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answers from Santa Fe on

My daughter did this! She was totally fine with getting shots. Then for ages 6 - 8 she was a wreck...ask in crying, yelling, freaking out, practically crawling up the walls. After her shot at age 8 (I had to finally just hold her down bc I did not want to come back) she admitted in the car that it was not as bad as she thought and she was embarrassed about how she acted. At age 9 we went to the CVS for a flu shot instead of the doctor and although she was very nervous, we talked about how she acted the year before and how it really is not so bad. I'm proud to say she was very brave. So maybe in a year or two your daughter will be more mature and better about this kind of thing?

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