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How to prepare for a child’s doctor visit

Here are a few tips to prepare for a successful visit to your child’s doctor.

There are a lot of reasons for children’s doctor visits. Sometimes they might need a checkup; other times, they aren’t feeling well and need treatment. Whether the visit is planned or not, use these tips to prepare so the visit with your child’s doctor goes smoothly.

Prepare your questions

When you take your child for a visit, the doctor will ask if you have any questions about your child’s health. It can be hard to remember everything you want to ask if you don’t write it down.

Putting your questions into different categories can help you make sure you cover all the areas of your child’s health you want to ask about. For example, your list might include questions about your child’s physical and mental health and any behavior changes you are concerned about. Having a structured list can also help you move through your questions quickly so you can ask the doctor everything you need to.

What you need to bring

One of the best things you can do to prepare for your child’s doctor visit is to make sure you have what you need. This will likely be different depending on your child’s age and why you are taking them to the doctor.

Many people use health trackers to chart their child’s health and wellness as they grow. Some people make notes in a notebook or on their phone, while others use apps to keep track of important information. These trackers can help monitor different areas of your child’s health including tracking milestones, allergies, medications, vaccines, and doctor’s appointments.

Whether you are seeing your child’s regular doctor or a new provider, these records can be beneficial during the visit. No matter what method you use, it never hurts to have the information on hand. Additionally, if your child takes medicine regularly, bring a list or pictures of the medications so the doctor can review medication management decisions.

Your child’s vaccine history may also be discussed during the visit. That’s why vaccination cards are one item that should be on your list, especially if you are taking your child to a well-visit.

These are records of the immunizations that your child has received. Bringing them can help the provider understand whether your child is up to date on their immunizations. If your child needs any recommended vaccines, the provider will discuss this with you during the visit.

If you’re taking your child for a physical for sports, daycare, camp or driver’s license, make sure you have the form from the requesting organization. These are often specific forms and not something the doctor would have available at their office. If you forget this form and the doctor is unable to sign it, your child’s activity could be delayed. Make sure you tuck this form and other items you might need in your bag the night before your appointment.

Tips for preparing your child to feel calm and confident

Going to the doctor can be scary for children. After all, they see the doctor for things like vaccines and when they don’t feel well. There are ways you can help build your child’s confidence and make them feel at ease during a doctor’s visit.

Talk about it ahead of time.

A surprise appointment could be very stressful for your child. Remind your child about the visit beforehand. Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may want to do this a few days ahead of time and on appointment day.

You can talk about the reason for the visit and any concerns your child might have about going to the doctor. When you talk about visits, speak positively about the doctor.

Be body positive.

Some children and teens may struggle with their body image. The seemingly routine act of getting weighed at the doctor’s office can be stressful for them.

Reassure your child that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Talk about the importance of focusing on what the body can do rather than what it looks like. Remember, it’s essential for you to be a role model and live the words that you are telling your child.

If being weighed is difficult for your child, talk to your child’s doctor ahead of time. A doctor can provide reassurance and guidance.

Get them involved.

It can be easy for adults to do all the talking, including asking questions. Try to remember your child might have their own questions. Let your child know it’s OK to ask the doctor questions, but don’t pressure your child to ask questions. When you sit down to write down your questions, ask your child if they have any to add to the list.

Make it rewarding.

Rewards can be a motivator to get children to behave during a doctor’s visit.  A reward doesn’t have to mean candy, toys, or money. It can be something as simple as a sticker, spending extra family time together, or letting your child choose what’s for dinner. Remember not to reward everything. If you overuse rewards, your child may expect a reward every time they do something.

For further resources to support your child, visit UPMC Health Plan’s pediatric care resources site.