The celebration of a birthday is usually rounded out by a trip to the pediatrician for an annual check-up. Pretty much every kids worst nightmare and least favorite part of getting another year older. Birthday presents...check. Day of fun and a pass on many household rules...check. Opportunity to play, party, and eat sugar...check. Yearly appointment to assess overall health...uncheck!
For better or worse, we spend a lot more time in doctors' offices than many families given Little A's severe food allergies and asthma. The boys have a certain comfort level with the various physicians, something I feel extraordinary fortunate about. Our pediatrician's office has a wonderful waiting room equipped with a fabulous collection of toys (and even better there is no TV). The boys run into the waiting room looking for their favorites and there is a fantastic policy where children are permitted to take a toy (or two) into the exam room when their name is called. This makes the transition much easier and the boys have something to occupy (distract) themselves with during the exam or check up. I have adapted this for offices that are set up more traditionally (such as our allergist) and allow the boys to pack a small backpack of toys (that do not produce a sound), books, and magazines. The items become great conversation starters with various physicians and serve as a happy neutral ground throughout the appointment.
Knowing how much the boys look to me for validation and comfort during any doctor's visit (including the dentist), it is extremely important that 1) I am comfortable with the physician and 2) I leave my own discomforts about check ups, blood draws, and dental work at the door. It is difficulty to focus on your child[ren]'s needs if you are not in a completely comfortable situation where you trust the physician. Furthermore, children read our behaviors and play off our emotions and the tone we set. In order for our child[ren] to be calm and trusting, we must feel the same. There is no reason to force yourself to work with one particular doctor. Take the time to find someone who has the right style and fits the needs of your family. If you are meeting a physician for the first time don't hesitate to ask questions about their philosophy on various topics (such as immunizations, antibiotics, or parenting methods), who can be reached after hours, and if or how they will discuss your child's behavioral and social development in addition to general growth.
Role playing is a powerful tool when preparing your child for a trip to any doctor. Rehearsing conversations, acting out scenarios, and brainstorming questions are all excellent strategies to alleviate anxiety over an upcoming appointment. Talk honestly with your child about what they will experience, feel, and see throughout the appointment. Help your child label feelings and use kid-friendly language (such as, ouch and boo-boo) to help their ability to express thoughts and feelings before, during and after the session. We've had a play doctor's kit amongst our toys for the past two years and the boys enjoy playing doctor with one another and have benefited from understanding what difference equipment helps the doctor accomplish. There has even been more than one occasion where the toy stethoscope has made the trip to the pediatrician in order to assist in the check-up.
There are sure to be visits that go better than others, and no one enjoys being poked or prodded when they are sick. The overall goal is to alleviate unnecessary concern and help our children understand what can be expected during an appointment. In summary, a few of my tips include:
Best of luck with that next check up!
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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