Article at a Glance
Going to the doctor is an important part of your child’s overall health, whether it is for a routine checkup or to treat an illness. Unfortunately doctor’s appointments are rarely people’s favorite thing to do.
And while we can’t promise that coming to see us will ever be as much fun as going to Disneyland, these tips will make things a lot easier on both you and your child.
Before Your Visit
Schedule for Success: When making an appointment, try to avoid nap times, mealtimes, or times of the day when your child is usually cranky. And don’t be afraid to ask the office staff about times or days that are less busy.
Schedule Enough Time: When scheduling, let the office staff know exactly what you want to address during the appointment. For example if you are coming in for a fever, but also want to ask some questions about your child’s development, they will need to schedule enough time to cover both. The same goes if you have questions about more than one child. The pediatrician won’t be able to give two children the care they need during the time allotted for one child’s appointment.
Role-Playing: Role-playing can be a powerful way for children to understand feelings and work through concerns. Pull out your doctor kit and act out a doctor’s visit with one of your child’s stuffed animals. Listen to its chest, tap its knees, look in its ears, and weigh it on a scale. Later let your child perform the actions on a stuffed animal or you.
If there are any special procedures your child will have performed, you can also role-play those. If your child has more questions try drawing a picture or seeing if there is suitable video of the procedure online. Sometimes it is the not knowing what to expect that is the scariest.
Focus on the Positive: Most children equate the doctor’s office with shots. Help them understand that going to the doctor is a positive thing that will help us be healthy. It is not a punishment or because we did something wrong. Never use going to the doctor as a threat.
Be Honest: If a procedure is going to hurt or be uncomfortable, let your child know. Children will be less scared if they know that you are always upfront with them. Let your children know that they can ask you anything at any time. When answering questions, be to the point without dwelling on unpleasant details. You want to help them feel prepared and confident, not terrified.
Use Your Pediatrician: Your pediatrician is there to help with more than just illness. The doctor can help with development, behavior, and school issues. Problems with potty training? Don’t be afraid to ask. If your doctor can’t help they can refer you to a specialist who can.
Write Down Any Questions: Before you go, sit down and write a list of questions and jot down some of the symptoms you want to bring up. It can be easy to forget things once you are there. Keeping a child happy at the doctor’s office is hard enough without having to worry about remembering everything!
Go Yourself: Whenever possible, have a parent bring the child in. A grandparent, babysitter, or nanny doesn’t always convey all the information appropriately. And they often can’t answer all the doctor’s questions.
Make Dressing Easy: When dressing your child for the visit, keep clothes simple—especially with babies and toddlers. Aim for less layers, less buttons, and shoes that are easy to take on and off.
Bring Additional Documentation: There is nothing more frustrating than taking your child in for a terrible cough, only to have it suddenly disappear once you walk into the office. Sometimes it can be helpful to take a video or photo of things like rashes, coughing, crying, and other behaviors so that the doctor can see exactly what you are talking about.
During Your Visit
Be An Example: Children often mirror their parents’ emotions. If you act like going to the doctor is a positive experience, your children will be more likely to feel the same. Let your child know that you will be there the entire time.
Security Objects: Sometimes the little things can make a big difference. If your child has a security object, bring it. For babies and toddlers, bringing a helium Mylar balloon is a great distraction while waiting for the doctor or for after shots.
Focus on Your Child: Put aside your smart phone and bring something you know that your child will enjoy doing with you. You will be surprised at how much fun you can make things. And if you are having a good time, your child will have very little opportunity to get worried. Your child will also equate time at the doctor as a chance to have uninterrupted time to read, chat, or play with you.
Ask Questions: If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Make sure you understand what steps you need to take next, any lab work that might need to be done, and any medications that need to be taken. If there are any medical terms you don’t understand, ask. Taking notes can be a great way to make sure you don’t forget anything later.
Be Prepared: Be ready to give lots of information. Your pediatrician might want to know how long your child has had a problem, what the symptoms are, and any other contributing factors or life changes. You might also be asked about things like sleeping, eating, walking, and talking. Be sure to tell the doctor about any vitamins, herbs, over-the-counter drugs, or prescriptions your child is taking.
Be Upfront: You might feel embarrassed by something you have done or neglected to do or by one of your child’s behaviors. But don’t worry. We understand that we are all human. The most important thing is to give your pediatrician a full and accurate picture so that your child can receive the appropriate care.
Limit Any Distractions: If possible leave the other children home with a sitter and ignore your phone.
Be Realistic: Recognize that there is usually no miracle cure. Prescribing an antibiotic or other drug won’t necessarily solve all problems. Your doctor will be focused on providing the best and most appropriate care, not on easy answers.
Call With Any Problems: If the prescribed treatment is not working, if the condition gets worse, or if your child has a side effect to a medication, be sure to contact your doctor.
Let Us Know How We Are Doing: If you are ever not happy with your experience, let us know. We take pride in our practice and love to have the chance to make it right or to fix any problems. Just call your office’s manager or our administrative office at (801) 370-3902.