You're quietly washing dishes when you hear a sickening sound--a thud followed by the sound of your young child screaming. You run upstairs to find blood everywhere--on the carpet and all over your child's hands and forehead. As you clean and examine the wound, it's apparent that it will need to be stitched. This will be your child's first encounter with a major medical care center treatment. How can you help her stay calm? Here are 6 ways to keep your child calm and happy during your medical care center visit.
If you're usually the avoid-sugar-at-all-costs type of parent, now is the time to make an exception. Most young children will calm right down when they know a treat is involved. Many urgent care centers have a stash of sweets on hand for this exact purpose, so when you arrive, be sure to ask for a handful (if they haven't already offered). As your child indulges in a few lollipops, her nerves will calm down and she'll be more willing to cooperate during the procedure.
Most doctors are trained in ways to help children feel more comfortable, and one technique they often use is conversation. A child will feel safer and more relaxed if she trusts her care provider, and by talking with your child, the doctor can help establish that trust. If the doctor tries to engage your child in a conversation, try to help her respond. He may compliment her outfit, or ask what her favorite toys are. This is his way of building trust so she will be able to relax and cooperate.
Don't be surprised if your medical center doctor comes into your room with an arsenal of fun objects and toys. He is using one of the oldest and most common ways of reducing pain and anxiety--distraction. If he can engage your child's brain in something else, your child will likely not notice much of the procedure. Some common ways of distracting children during stitches include:
- Blowing bubbles
- Age-appropriate toys
- Thought exercises (i.e. talking about a favorite vacation spot)
Some doctors like to use humor to calm children down--and they're very good at it! These "Patch Adams" doctors may wear a funny hat or shoes, tell silly jokes, or perform magic tricks before and during the procedure to help your child laugh and feel at ease. This is another technique that has been used for centuries because it works! Laughter helps to relieve stress, relax the body, and trigger the release of endorphins--the body's own natural pain-relieving hormones.
Some children find a great deal of comfort in a familiar object such as a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a pillow. If your child has a favorite comfort item, have her bring it with her to the medical center. If not, ask the doctor if they have any they can provide. You may want to consider stopping by the store on the way to purchase your child a new stuffed animal to hold during the procedure.
Finally, some children find the greatest comfort while being held and touched in a calm, non-threatening way. If you know your child is one of these, request to hold her in your lap during the stitching. Before the doctor begins, rock and gently stroke your child to help relax her. You can even sing to her while you do this. During the procedure, you'll need to stop rocking, but you can continue to gently stroke your child. This type of touch, sometimes called "light touch massage," helps to flood the body with endorphins and block any negative sensations that may occur.
Next time you head to the medical center with your young child for stitches, remember these six ways of keeping your child calm and happy during the procedure. No parent likes to see their child suffer, and with these simple tips, you can help ensure that both you and your child have a good experience at the medical center.