There is a reason why many parents report dreading taking their kids to the doctor, dentist or hospital -- it's stressful for both the adults and their little ones. Even adults who have already experienced their fair share of doctors' appointments, and perhaps even hospital stays, can feel anxiety when either is necessary for them. Imagine how kids with limited medical exposure must feel?
Finding the right words to calm nervous kids can be impossible -- especially when you can't always reassure them that "everything will be fine" with complete certainty. When it comes to unexpected medical events, this rings even more true.
There are ways to help kids cope, though. Even toddlers can be prepped to feel in control of stressful medical situations with the right approach.
I recently had the chance to watch two unique videos that deal exactly with these topics: Doctor's Office Rock and Hospital Rock from children's educational development brand Math Musical Minds. Both videos use original music and animation to inform kids ages 2 to 5 about what to expect when they have planned or unexpected medical events. By informing young children about the people, equipment and situations unique to the medical environment, much of the fear is alleviated.
These two videos are about more than vague songs and dances, though. They are actually pretty detailed in what kids can expect when it comes to shots, needles, operations, X-rays, anesthesia, medicine and medical personnel.
Company founder Dr. Anne-Marie Oreskovich says that she saw a need in the market for videos targeted at this age group in order to relieve some of the tension surrounding the necessity of medical visits.
"Our motto is to make the discussion fun and then it won't be scary, so kids can actually feel comfortable about what these medical visits mean to their health and well-being," she said. "Knowledge is power. If they have some idea about what will happen once they are there, and have familiarity with these procedures and instruments, then the fear of the unknown will disappear."
Alleviate Common Childhood Fears of Medical Environments
The goal of both videos is two-fold. The first part is to give children exposure to "scary" topics like heading to the doctor, visiting the hospital or needing operations. The second part is to soothe and entertain, diverting their attention from painful procedures, painful needle pricks and other uncomfortable medical events.
Specifically, the videos are unique because they offer:
- Specially designed music, created to be therapeutic as well as entertaining that was created by a musician who worked and studied with music therapists in children's hospitals
- Hand-drawn, original animated characters in the shape of common hospital and doctor's office instruments (like needles, IVs, and thermometers). By making these typically foreign items fun and non-threatening, kids are able to get past the unfamiliarity and understand how they are actually helpful.
- Interactive rhythm, along with dancing, clapping, singing, and dancing to encourage children to interact with the original music, while the medical concepts are repeated. In this way, the children can engage with the new concepts on a visual, audial, verbal, and kinesthetic level, incorporating as many modes of learning as possible.
- Real content shots that contain operations, X-rays, anesthesia and other medical equipment so kids have an accurate idea of what they can expect in the real-life settings.
Development through Experience
Dr. Oreskovich's concept wasn't formed overnight. As a young woman, she made regular visits to children's hospitals as a volunteer singer, sharing positivity through music. This eventually translated into her founding volunteer singing groups nationwide with the same goal.
She found herself on the receiving end of music therapy when she spent time recovering from a car accident. To cope with the physical and mental healing, she sought out soothing music that helped her pull her through the difficult time. Her personal experiences that channeled the soothing nature of music in stressful medical moments, along with her training as a mathematician and musician at both Harvard and Oxford universities have all come together to make "Doctor's Office Rock" and "Hospital Rock" so effective.
The videos are available as digital downloads, meaning they can be taken along to visits - thus providing a distraction in and of themselves through the devices where they are viewed. Parents have the option to rent the videos and stream them, or to buy and download them. The videos just launched in the spring of 2014 and Dr. Oreskovich says that related applications, games and downloads are in the development stages as well.
"Familiarity breeds comfort. If kids are less afraid, they are more free to open up to the procedures and instruments used at these places. And knowledge equals power and freedom," said Dr. Oreskovich.
The company has also released Math Musical Minds videos that successfully blend rhythm, math and early learning concepts, which I've also viewed and enjoyed as an educator.
I am always in favor of giving kids as much information as is safe and responsible in every situation and these videos really impressed me. They don't water down the information or glamorize medical settings, but they still manage to tap into the fun and musical nature of children in the age group. I look forward to more product offerings from this up-and-coming company and to hearing success stories from the families they have helped.