Keeping your kids calm at the doctor: Mindfulness hacks for parents
Doctor’s visits can be a little scary, especially for kids. Often kids experience high levels of anxiety at the doctor’s office and it may be tempting to bribe them with treats to keep them calm but we’ve got something better. Have you tried using mindfulness? Stay with us and we’ll explain.
Doctors make a lot of people scared (not us… okay sometimes us) but a visit to the doctor’s office makes most children a little nervous. Sitting in the waiting room can be a massive trigger of anxiety to children. They sit and anxiously wait for the doctor around other sick, uncomfortable kids who are loud or crying. Sometimes kids cry while in the examination room with the doc which can make their fears far worse.
Often parents try to persuade their kids to behave well by offering them treats after their doctor’s visit but there are more effective ways of keeping your kids calm. One of our favourites is mindfulness. This is a great way of instilling a sense of calm in your children that they can use in any stressful or anxiety-inducing situation.
Before we get into our mindfulness tips, let’s start at the beginning…
What is mindfulness?
In the dictionary, mindfulness is described as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”.
Which basically translates into the practice of being fully present at the moment in a non-judgmental way. It’s a way of teaching your children to understand their mind and body connection and how to stop being overly reactive to thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
Mindfulness can help kids stay focused regardless of what is happening in their environment.
Research indicates that mindfulness helps reduce stress and anxiety when they’re in stressful or uncomfortable situations. Next time your child is feeling antsy while in the doctor’s waiting room, try teaching them these mindfulness techniques to distract them and keep them calm.
Mindful breathing games
Controlling your breathing is a great way to minimise stress and anxiety. Teaching your kids to breathe mindfully will help them soothe their own anxiety and the best way to do that is by making it a game. This is a perfect way to teach them how to reduce their stress in a fun and playful way.
The birthday candle is a fun breathing game for each of your youngsters. All you have to do is ask them to pretend they’re blowing out a birthday candle. They must take a deep breath in and then push the breath out as if they’re blowing out all of their birthday candles. The higher their stress levels, the more birthday candles they must imagine blowing out.
Ask your children to create a heart shape with their hands. As they breathe in, they can expand their hands into a heart shape. As they breathe out, their hands collapse into two fists side by side. This is an easy on-the-go exercise since no props are necessary.
These two quick games are important to teach your little ones how to breathe in and out slowly and to focus their energy on something that will help them.
Five senses scavenger hunt
The five senses scavenger hunt is a very common exercise to assist both adults and children with their anxiety.
Changing your child’s focus from their fears to their 5 five senses is a great way of redirecting their thoughts using mindfulness. The 5 senses scavenger hunt works like this;
Ask your little one to point out 5 things they SEE around them in the waiting room. You can even ask them to describe each item (what colour it is, is it big or small?) and then ask them to tell you what they like about it, or what it reminds them of.
Now ask your kiddies to TOUCH 4 things. It could be their hair, clothing, chair, carpet, your handbag, the magazines in the waiting room, absolutely anything. Ask them to tell you what each item feels like. Is it smooth, rough, cold etc?
Shhh… Ask your kids to keep still and silent for a few seconds.
Can they find 3 things they can HEAR? Some examples could be the clock ticking on the wall, a phone ringing, people talking, the rustle of magazine pages, or the air conditioner.
Pro tip: ask them to do this with their eyes closed so they can really focus on the sounds.
Ask them to find 2 different SMELLS while they’re sitting in the waiting room. They may need to get up and walk around for this one. They may smell a variety of things like someone’s perfume, sanitiser etc. Do they like or dislike the smells?
Finally, it’s time for your kids to find 1 thing that they can TASTE.
You’ll probably have to do a little bit of prep for this one so make sure you have a couple of snacks in your bag. If you don’t have anything for them to taste at that moment, ask your kid to describe the taste of what they would like to be eating or their favourite food.
These are small but great tips to keep your kids distracted healthily and mindfully. These techniques will help them in a variety of stressful situations. Waiting to see the doctor can sometimes feel like an eternity so these are great distractions to keep your little ones calm and quiet!
Yours in hassle-free healthcare,
The Oneplan Team