Mind your language!
What not to say to an anxious child 🤐
Last week we had our very first class on Child psychology. The instructor is a fascinating doctor who specializes in teaching health care professionals on how to deal with a child in pain. My co-residents and I agreed that hers was the most hypnotic voice we had ever heard and one of us even suggested she sign up with the headspace app :D
She had some insightful tips for us and some great pointers on the kind of language that is helpful and the kind that is not. I was disappointed to hear that everything I was saying to my anxious patients was a No-Go 😥
Here are some phrases I use all the time and apparently they are not helpful at all -
❌ During LA, “You are going to feel a tiny mosquito bite”.
No one likes mosquitos and even if the child by some miracle has not experienced it yet, they will anticipate pain when they hear this!
❌ During LA, “I will count to ten as I give you the sleepy juice - One.. Two.. Three.. Four.. Five.. Six..” (realizing I have more than half the carpule still left) “Sevennn… Seven and a half… Eight… Eight three quarters.. Nineeeee… Ten!”.
The child may lose their patience as you start slowing the countdown or if they don’t know what pace you like to keep to begin with!
❌ When they are crying, “It’s okay. You are fine.”
It may be okay for you but it sure is not okay for them!
❌ When they resist treatment, “We are going to try this, okay?”
Trying could mean that there is a chance it won’t work.
Instead of the above, our professor suggested the following -
✅ During LA, tell them you are going to give them the sleepy water/juice and that it is good as it puts the sugar bugs to sleep. You can say that it will feel cold. Avoid saying anything about pain.
✅ Teach them some coping techniques and tell them to practice those when they start to feel discomfort and any ouchies. For example, “Blow up a balloon in your belly and blow your bother away when you let the air out.” OR “Wiggle those toes, windshield-wiper your feet to let the bother out.”
✅ When they are crying, acknowledge their feeling. “I understand this is hard for you. You are being very brave and I am so proud of you.” Do not say “it’s okay”.
✅ When they resist treatment, give them two options so they think they have control over the situation. “Would you like the strawberry sleeping jelly or bubble gum?” , “Would you like to climb into this chair or slide into the bed that it magically becomes?”
My mission is to try these tweaks in how I talk to kids and hopefully I can gain more cooperation and help them with their dental anxiety!
What are some phrases you have found useful in your practice? Comment below!