Family Matters
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Family Matters


Looks like dolphin play to me!

You can pick up parenting tips from all kinds of places. The zoo. The aquarium. Both are loaded with insights. Dolphins spend their lives zipping around in three-dimensional space while pursuing one bright shiny object after another. Sounds kind of like a gaggle of wild toddlers, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, these zippy aquatic mammals need regular check-ups. Supervising vets must somehow convince this intelligent creature to swing by for a needle poke in the flipper, some goop in the eye, or a scope in the throat. So, how do you convince a dolphin to participate in such an unpleasant visit? With treats of course! Yummy fishy treats!

Guess what. It works for kiddos too. Okay, not the fishy part, but chocolate works almost as well. As soon as my kids were old enough to chew and swallow, I made it a point to bring small treats to all doctor’s visits. Chocolate chips in a little plastic container were always at hand.

Before the doctor came into the room, I’d place the container on the counter. The kids were told, they’d get three chocolate chips when the doctor was finished with the exam. As soon as the doctor was done, they immediately got those chocolatey rewards. In addition, they would get three more if they needed a throat swab or a shot. When we had unfortunate occasions for a blood draw and an I.V., they earned ice-cream.

By this time, we had a well-established and trusted routine of rewards for difficult medical visits. Did they cry? Well, yes, of course. It’s still hard for a child to go through these procedures. It’s hard for many adults to go through them.

They also walked into the doctor’s office on their own and fought hard to cooperate. This, despite their fear and pain. That’s a lot of bravery from a little one’s heart! It’s not just the candy that gets you there, of course. It’s the promise and consistent follow through of a lovingly given treat that can be a gentle balm to a tired and stressed little soul. The small gift and the time you take in sharing it with them can become an expression of your love and comfort. Of course, hugs, snuggles, and praise are also important.

I also never lie to my kids about what to expect at the doctor’s office. It can be a scary time, and over the years they need to be able to trust you to be honest with them.

Do consider the timing of information. My daughter does well with most procedures, but she becomes quite anxious ahead of time. I try to give her some advanced warning so that she doesn’t feel like it’s suddenly sprung on her.

However, too much advanced warning can lead to prolonged and heightened anxiety. Each child will have their own best timing on when to tell them of an impending visit.

If I told my son more in advance, he’d mentally log it as pending then completely forget about it until the day of the visit. As your kids get older, you’ll figure out what helps doctor’s visits go smoothly for them.

But don’t forget the treats. Dolphin training your kids really works!

P.S. Always bring a young child’s lovey, blankie, or favorite stuffy to the doctor visits!



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Kathleen Cawley

Kathleen Cawley

Physician Asst., twin mom, author of “Navigating Modern Parenthood: Warty Truths and Wisdom from an Older Mom with Twins.” Coming out spring/summer 2022.