Doctors, Dentists & Distress: Supporting Foster Children Through Medical Anxiety

Going to the doctor or dentist can be a stressful experience for any child, but for children in foster care who have experienced trauma and disruption, medical visits can be incredibly anxiety-provoking. As foster carers and caregivers, being attuned to children’s distress around medical care and finding ways to alleviate their worries is key to supporting their overall health and well-being.

Understanding Medical Anxiety in Foster Kids

Foster children, who have been removed from their homes due to various reasons such as abuse, neglect or parental substance abuse, are a uniquely vulnerable population. The trauma they have endured puts them at higher risk for mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment disorders. This can translate into intense anxiety, worry and fear around medical examinations and procedures. Some common concerns include:

  • Fear of pain or discomfort during exams
  • Worry about being separated from caregivers
  • Mistrust of doctors due to past negative experiences
  • Feeling a loss of control and powerlessness

On top of that, frequent changes in caretakers mean a lack of consistent support in managing medical visits. As a result, a simple check-up can be incredibly stressful and trigger strong emotions in foster children.

Providing Reassurance and Preparing for Visits

As caregivers, there are several supportive steps we can take to help minimise anxiety around doctor and dentist appointments:

  • Talk to children ahead of visits. Explain what will happen using simple, clear language. Allow them to ask questions and address any concerns.
  • Avoid framing visits in a negative light. Focus on the positives like getting help to feel better.
  • If possible, bring the child to meet the staff and tour the facilities before an exam. This helps demystify the environment.
  • Work with medical staff to accommodate requests, like staying with the child during procedures. Advocate for the child’s needs.
  • Provide reassurance and empathy. Comfort the child and validate their feelings.

Teaching Healthy Coping Strategies

In addition to preparation, teaching children coping methods can make medical visits less intimidating. Useful techniques include:

  • Deep breathing – have the children practice slowing their breathing whenever they feel scared.
  • Positive self-talk – help them challenge unhealthy thinking and irrational fears.
  • Distraction – bring along books, toys or electronics to divert their focus.
  • Comfort items – allow the child to bring a familiar belonging.
  • Relaxation strategies – teach muscle relaxation or visualisation methods.

With patience and compassion, caregivers can help children build a toolbox of healthy coping skills.

Ensuring Ongoing Medical Support

While occasional visits are anxiety-inducing, ongoing medical care is critical for foster children. Many have complex health needs stemming from histories of inadequate care. Caregivers play a central role in ensuring children receive regular check-ups, dental cleanings, treatments, medications and any required specialist care, even if they are only short-term fostering with This provides continuity that is often lacking when a child moves between living situations.

Over time, with reassurance, preparation and positive coping strategies, foster children can get more comfortable with medical visits. This leads to better health outcomes. As caregivers, being attuned to children’s distress and responding with sensitivity helps earn their trust while also addressing their physical and mental health needs. Medical anxiety in foster children is understandable but it can be overcome. With dedication and compassion, we can get them the care they deserve.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here