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How to prep your child for big things

My son loves going to the dentist and the doctor's office. Now that he is three and more verbal, he loves to ask questions about the tools being used and naming the ones that he already knows. However, I knew what it was like to dread that first visit, hoping a teeth cleaning or a shot didn't contribute to a long-term trauma.

Rest assured, it didn't have to be a scary experience. I had resources. Thankfully, we had a book about going to the dentist. We would read it to together before almost every bedtime for about a week or two. We even brought the book with us to the appointment just in case. It was a simple picture book that described everything that happens at the dentist and not only did my son enjoy reading it but he loved doing a bit of role play. Sitting back in our pretend chair we would slowing fall down on our backs as we get ready for our cleaning. Then we'd push the invisible button to lift us back up.

By the time the appointment came around, he did great. I was amazed at how easy it was for him to adjust to the idea of getting his teeth cleaned, when mind you, it felt like a wrestling match just to get him to do it at home. Reading ahead of time was a huge help. When we were called back and walked to the dentist's chair, my son didn't want to sit on his own at first. The chairs are big and to a child that can feel scary. But I reminded him it was just like the one in the book and slowly but surely, he relaxed. Of course we had an amazing team of dentist who gave him some cool sunglasses and communicated with him. That truly helped the process as well.

Now when we go to do something "big," I always let him know beforehand. It could be a few days, weeks, or months. I remind him from time to time, and if decisions need to be made, we include him in the decision making process. This has included two big moves and looking for a home. His opinions are very important in those processes and this helps the child feel connected, empowered and gives a sense of responsibility.

Here are some tips that help our family:

  1. Introduce your child to what is to come at least one-two weeks ahead of time. For example, "We are going on a trip very soon and will have to go on an airplane."

  2. Make small talk or ask questions to make sure they understand. Check in to see how they are feeling about the subject.

  3. Read books or watch videos on the subject.

  4. Include them in the decision making process (i.e. things to do on your vacation, help pack for a move (even coloring their own moving boxes can be a part of this), what foods you should eat for the week, etc.)

  5. When the day comes, don't make a big deal out of it. Let them simply know, "hey, we are going to get a haircut/go on the plane/go to the doctor's today." The more relaxed we are, the more the child is.

Looking for some helpful preparation books? Here are some of my favorites:

"Going on an Airplane" and more prep books.

Ready Set Prep has amazing books ranging in various topics from doctors and haircuts to road trips, school and becoming an older sibling.

Similar to the Ready Set Prep are the Wunderkidd books. I recently came across these and although I haven't purchased them myself, they are appear to be very similar to Lovevery's board books (we used the "going to the dentist" one), which I love. Lovevery unfortunately requires you to purchase their subscription kits before you can sign up for a book subscription. Due to its exclusive model, I currently don't recommend them for every family, so it is nice to see similar books from a company that allows for more access to materials.

Looking for helpful videos? Our favorites are:

  1. Oliver and Lucas on Youtube. These two brothers share a day's experience such as going on a train or a visit to the doctor.

  2. Min Min Playtime has a cute video to prepare your child for a new sibling.

  3. Kids' First Flight is a quick video by the Federation Aviation Administration. This shows children what to expect at the airport.


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