How can you prepare for your child's doctor visit, and more importantly, how can you prepare your child?
- If your child is old enough to comprehend what you are saying, explain why your child will be going to the doctor. Without causing unnecessary fear, explain that the doctor will be helping them solve a problem. Help the child understand the doctor is going to help them, not hurt them.
- If possible, take your child along to your own doctor appointment or their sibling's doctor appointment. The child will be exposed to the routine of a doctor's office.
- Before taking your child to the doctor, have a list prepared with information you want your doctor to know, and questions you want to ask. If you don't prepare the list ahead of time, you may become preoccupied by your child's actions or reactions while at the doctor's office, causing you to forget pertinent information. In other words, preparedness will compensate for any distractions that may occur.
- If your child misbehaves, be exceptionally patient, realizing their fear of the situation may be the cause. Don't punish them because they may then correlate punishment with the doctor's office.
- When speaking to the doctor, let your child do the talking (if they are old enough to communicate and answer for themselves). At least at the beginning of the consultation, let your child describe what's wrong and answer the doctor's questions. It's possible the child may be even more forthcoming with the doctor than they have been with you.
- After allowing your child to speak first, interject any information that you feel is pertinent or has yet to be discussed. Remember that a doctor's time is valuable. Keep it relevant, always remembering why you are there.
- Don't expect immediate resolution. Not all of your questions will necessarily be answered during the first visit to the doctor. Further examination and diagnostic tests will likely be necessary.
- Follow doctor's orders. Make sure the child accepts the doctor's orders as being for their own good, and not a punishment. What better time to teach your child about responsibility and compliance? If your child must take medication, keep them on a schedule. If your child's activities are limited, help them to find other outlets for their energy and creativity. Be prepared to come out of the doctor visit with a plan of action.
- Don't overdo the attention you give your child after their doctor visit. For example, if the toy store is your next stop after the doctor's office, it might become an expected reward. Don't set up a pattern which you aren't willing to continue.
- Speak openly with your child after the doctor visit. Ask if they like the doctor, or if they were afraid of the doctor. Let your child express their feelings. Encourage your child to talk about what just happened - why they went to the doctor, why the doctor asked the questions which were asked etc.
- Does your child know if there will be a follow-up appointment? Be sure your child knows what lies ahead. Make sure your child hears you say that you will be with them every step of the way.
- Be honest with your child. Don't lie to them about any aspect of their health care, but be mindful of their age and ability to understand.
- Your child unknowingly will depend on you to understand what the doctor is saying or doing. If there is anything during the consultation which you as the parent don't understand, take notes and ask at the next visit or call the doctor privately if that is the better option. Don't let any of your questions go unaddressed.
- Don't disregard your child's symptoms as just growing pains, or just a sports injury.
- Show compassion and kindness not only to your child, but to your child's doctor. The doctor's job is to help your child return to wellness or learn how to live with a chronic condition. Your job as the parent is to have patience.
- Educate yourself, prepare a list of questions, determine what you need to take so you'll get the most out of the doctor visit.
- If you have a lot of questions, ask if you can schedule a long appointment. Don't expect staff to know you'll need extra time unless you tell them.
- Have a notebook handy so that you can write down any important information from your doctor. If you leave without writing it down you may forget.
- Explain to your child that the doctor is going to do all he/she can to make them feel better.
- Encourage honest and open communication with all family members. The whole family is affected when a child is sick. You're in it together.
What You Need
- A notebook and pen.
- Questions you have for the doctor.
- Questions your child wants to be answered.
- Respect for the doctor.
- Know the doctor's policies (i.e. would he/she resent a second opinion?)
- Medical insurance cards.
- Child birth certificate or identification.
- Family medical history.
- Time to care for your child.