Reassuring your kids when they are about to undergo a painful medical procedure might just increase their fear and pain, a new study has said.
On the other hand, children whose parents just talk about something else cope better.
"It seems counterintuitive that reassurance can hurt," Discovery News quoted Meghan McMurty of the Departments of Psychology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as saying.
McMurty and her colleagues recruited 100 children between ages 5 and 10 and their parents. All the children were having blood drawn for tests in an outpatient blood lab. They videotaped the interactions between the parents and their kids, along with video vignettes by actors recreating the same behaviours and asked the children to rate what they saw in the videos.
They found that during reassuring behavior, facial expressions conveying fear and talking in a rising tone caused more fear in the children. Reassuring parents can convey worry, and worried facial expressions play a powerful role, the authors suggest.
But should the parents then smile if their child is dreading a shot?
"The best thing to do is distract.
"It's also very tempting for health care professionals to reassure. Historically health care professionals' training in pain management is not very good," said McMurty.
She hopes that eventually she can create a research-based tip sheet to help parents and professionals lower children's anxiety about medical procedures.
The study is published in the July issue of the journal Pain.