Child Therapy

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 by

Helping my daughter
through an obstacle

In early spring, my daughter Ari and I were having a blast at the playground. Until she hit an obstacle: a bridge she was scared to walk across. Even though I offered to hold her hand and walk with her, she refused to walk on it. So I did what any parent would: I picked her up, held her tight, and crossed the bridge with her in my arms.

Last week we faced another hurdle: this time, it was equally daunting for both of us: my daughter had to see a pediatrician for an upper respiratory infection.

Like most young children, Ari is afraid of doctors.
Like most people who have faced a serious illness, I am afraid to see doctors. Even pediatricians examining my child for a typical illness.

To make matters worse, Ari’s doctor is in the children’s wing of the hospital where I received all my breast cancer treatments and surgeries and where I still see my doctors. Each time I bring her there, I have flashbacks.

My job that day, however, was not to focus on my inner demons but to help make my daughter’s experience with doctors a positive one. On the drive there, I calmly explained to her that we were going to see the doctor, who was going to make her all better. I told her that the doctor was really nice and really cared about her. Ari whimpered and said she didn’t want to go, but I calmly persuaded her that everything would be alright.

Before the doctor entered the exam room, I coached Ari through the examination process, telling her what to expect. I told her that the doctor would check her nose, eyes, throat and ears and touch her. Ari was scared of the cushioned examination table, but I told her that this is where she would have to sit and that the table actually looked like a bed and wasn’t so scary. I reassured her there was nothing to be frightened of.

And in reassuring her, for that day at least, I reassured myself that doctors weren’t so scary. In nurturing her own needs for security, I found myself nurturing the frightened child within me. I had convinced her and me that this was a routine exam and the doctor is not frightening at all.

And the exam went wonderfully! Two doctors attended to her and for the first time, my daughter did not cry or complain during a physical examination. In fact, she smiled and laughed with the doctors. They were smitten with her, hung around, and lavished her with stickers and TLC. Ari was having a great time, and, ironically, so was I.

After the appointment, I told Ari how proud I was of her, and she said, “I want to see the doctors again!” While I would never venture to go that far, I was happy that my daughter’s experience with doctors was a positive one. 

And by coaching my child through what can be a very scary experience, I coached my inner child to feel more secure and, for now, to be less fearful of doctors.


12 Responses to Child Therapy

  1. Cheryl Radford had this to say about that:

    Such a simple explanation for Ari, and your Inner Child, Beth, and so effective! A lovely story and well told, once again. A valuable lesson for each of us.
    It must be comforting for you to know that Ari’s experience with the pediatrician was so positive. You have done well!

  2. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my post, Cheryl. I really appreciate it.

    I was so stunned how well Ari did and, yes, it was comforting. I’m hoping I can carry that feeling into my next appointment with my oncologist, which will be coming up sooner than later (YIKES!)

  3. Knock knock - it's cancer! had this to say about that:

    You did a greaet job helping her through it, especially having some anxiety around this yourself.

    I am faced with this dilemma every time we get on a plane. I’d like to be knocked unconcious for the entire flight but I need to portray and safe and happy space for the kids so I use my ‘ big girl voice’ and point out all the ‘fun’ things and the kids love it and I manage to get through it…

    The last thing I’d want is to impart my fears of flying onto them.

    PS – this is unrelated, but thought you’d like to know I’m going to make the blog ‘private’ in a short time, and if you’d like to continue reading it, please just drop me a comment with your email address and I’ll gladly add you to my list of readers (I mostly want to weed out friends and family and keep it to the blogosphere only – I find I am censoring way too much knowing my family reads my blog)

    Cheers. Michelle

  4. FAMEDS had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth! Great to stumble on your blog and read hear your story! Best of luck with everything! Have you heard of FAMEDS? Freedom of Access to Medicines (FAMEDS) is the non-profit org fighting the FDA in order to continue to allow the drug Avastin to be available to the 17,500 women with metastatic breast cancer that the drug is working to improve their quality of life. Please sign and share the urgent petition:

  5. nancyspoint had this to say about that:

    Beth, This is a beautiful post about a mother’s love and concern for her child over riding her own fear of doctors and hospitals. It also shows how being honest with even really young children is so important. Like us, they want to know what to expect at doctor appts too! Great job helping your daughter. I’m glad it went so well. Good job, mom! I love her name by the way!

  6. had this to say about that:

    What a great mother you are. My earliest memories about doctors, childbirth and that “time of the month” are full of fear, negativity and death, but then my mother was not as strong, intuitive and nurturing as you are. I’ve never said this, but my mother seemed to nurture failure in me. I wish it had even been dependence, but taking on another life, other than herself to care for, was more than she could manage. Thank God I had a domineering father, and his mother, who nurtured independence and strength.


  7. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Dear Knock Knock It’s Cancer:

    Thank you for your kind comments. It’s amazing what motherhood forces you to do — put on a brave face, all for the sake of a child or children. I can tell you are an AWESOME mom.

    Yes, I want to keep in touch and keep reading your terrific blog. I’ll leave a comment on your blog soon.

  8. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Dear FAMEDS:

    I’ve heard of Avastin, but I don’t know much about it.

    Thank you so much for stumbling on my blog and reading it. Take care, Beth

  9. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Nancy, thanks for your comment and loyal readership, as always!

    Thanks for your kind words about my mothering ability. I’m usually not sure if I’m doing the best job possible.

    Yes, it was a trying day, just focusing on Ari and keeping the inner demons at bay. Thanks for your comment about her name!

  10. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Hi Brenda,

    Thanks for your compliments on my mothering ability! It means a lot to me. Being a parent is such a challenge, but so is being a frightened child.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Your input is very appreciated.

  11. Alli had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth this is Alicia (Alli) from Nanceys post.

    Fantastic job with your daughter. The way we introduce professionals ie:: Doctors Dentists and other Medical people when they are at this age will be the blueprint how they react in future appointments.

    I had to go through something not quite similar. My grandmother passed away and in our family tradition children are not excluded from Funerals. In order to help my son through the initial stages, we went to a “Casket Store” I showed him what to expect, that this is what his great grandmother will be sleeping in. We went through the whole process step by step. When it came to visitation he was quite alright in fact brought a couple of his favourite Ninja Turtles so his Babcia (Polish) could take to heaven , give one to his great grandpa too. He stood by her talked to her. Unfortunately we had a couple of more deaths in our family. This helped him get through these without being afraid… It only takes a few minutes to prepare our children from having fearful experiences in future…..

  12. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


    Thank you for reading and commenting on my posting. The way you introduced your son to the concept of what to expect at the funeral was really extraordinary. I can tell you are a great mom!

    You are right about how we introduce health professionals to our children sets the blueprint on how they react to such professionals in the future.

Add Your Comment, Feedback or Opinion Here

Your email is safe here. It will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>