Overcoming Fear Of Needles

Overcoming Fear Of Needles

In the April 2014 issue of the Playful Parenting Newsletter, Dr. Lawrence Cohen included a powerful story from a mom in California. Her story, reprinted here with Dr. Cohen’s permission, demonstrates what can be achieved when you trust your child to direct his or her play.

When put in the lead, children set exactly the right level of challenge for growth.

“My 7-year-old son L. needed to get his blood drawn for allergy testing. He’d had a bad experience in the past, so he was feeling scared about doing it again. We took him to have it done with the promise that nobody would hold him down, but after about 30 minutes of him saying, “I’m not ready!” the phlebotomist suddenly decided (without my permission) to try to do it against his will. She didn’t succeed, but L’s trust was broken. We left and I decided we needed to do some more preparation to get him ready.


On Larry’s suggestion, we started playing a great “hold me down” wrestling game where L. would try to get some fabric headbands off my elbows. I would struggle and say, “I’m sure glad you aren’t holding my arm down” so that he would hold my arm and try to get the band while I protested. He loved this game and we played it a lot. Then one day it morphed into a game with his sleeping bag, where I had to lay on the bed while he was on the floor next to the bed deep inside his sleeping bag. I was told to close my eyes, and then he would jump up and slap the empty top of the bag on me. He would cackle like crazy every time I was “startled” and cried out. Then he wanted me to reach into the sleeping bag and try to find him, but not be able to (he made the parameters very clear), and then he’d grab my hand and pull me onto the floor on top of him. He would almost freak out every time because he felt trapped in the bag, but he kept wanting to do it. I think he was working through some other kind of fear there.


Then we moved on to me pretending to be the phlebotomist who was going to jab him against his will, and I suggested that he do what he wished he could have done when that actually happened. He jumped on me and pushed me down and said, “You can’t do that!” while laughing the whole time. I think it helped him feel less powerless. Then he wanted to “mess with” the phlebotomist by going in and saying he was ready, but then “ditching” her by leaving, which we actually did (I let the office know what was going on). I believe it allowed him to go into the scary situation feeling completely in control, while also testing me to make sure that I wouldn’t break his trust.


Then the day came for the blood draw. He did it without any coercion!  I had gotten some numbing cream for his arm, so I hoped it wasn’t going to hurt, but he cried through the whole thing. I think it really did hurt, but some of it may have been him processing the fear he hadn’t worked through yet.


The most amazing part is that ever since the blood draw, his mood has been really upbeat and relaxed, especially at school. He recently told me that he decided that he wasn’t happy with how school was going, so he was going to start using his best attentive listening skills in class. He said that it’s a lot better in class now because the teacher is calling on him more and he is getting positive feedback from her. So all the preparation work actually had a broader impact than I ever imagined it would!”

Dr. Cohen’s comment about this story was: “I especially loved the way this boy set up his own games, and the way his mom followed along, even without totally understanding the connection between the games and L’s fears.”

Playful parenting fits perfectly with Language of Listening and can be used as a brilliant CAN DO. For more great examples of ways to use play to connect with your children and help them work through their challenges, I wholeheartedly encourage you to buy his classic Playful Parenting book and sign up for his Playful Parenting Newsletter. I always look forward to each and every one!

Have you or your child ever overcome a fear? What worked or what didn’t? 

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