Family: Feeling OK at the Doctor's

Most kids try to avoid the doctor like the plague. So how do you make your next visit more pleasant? Howard J. Bennett, a Washington, D.C., pediatrician and author of the new book "Lions Aren't Scared of Shots" ($14.95; ages 3 to 7), offers these tips. Set the right tone. Even young babies sense when a parent is nervous or impatient. "It's important for parents to maintain a calm attitude and talk about the doctor in a matter-of-fact way," says Bennett. "You can say, 'We're going to see Dr. Goldstein today so you can have your checkup'." Build familiarity. Before your visit, remind your child about what he liked at the office the last time: the aquarium, a favorite nurse or a picture on the wall. "When you get there, point all these things out; you want to make it a friendly place," says Bennett. Bring a toy. Encourage your child to bring a doll or stuffed animal from home with which he identifies. "Often, I'll examine the bear before the child," says Bennett. Beginning when your child is 3 or 4, you can buy her a toy medical kit that she can bring to the office. "They can listen to my heart; they like to give me a shot," says Bennett. Call ahead. If you're worried about a sensitive issue--bed-wetting, poor weight gain, obesity--that you don't want to bring up in front of your child, warn your doctor ahead of time. "Then, we can speak in code, or I'll call the parent back the next day," says Bennett.