Your child’s pediatrician plays a key role in keeping your child both physically and mentally healthy. At first, when your child is an infant, you see the doctor every few months. As kids get older, though, you may only see the pediatrician once every year during an annual well visit.
Well visits often last less than 20 minutes, so it’s important to maximize the time spent with your pediatrician. No matter how old your kids are, being properly prepared for annual well visits is a great way to ensure you get the most benefit out of that limited time.
So just how should you plan ahead for your appointment? To find out, we spoke with Frances. L Rosenblum, MD, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Primary Care, HighPoint location in Chalfont, PA. Use this check-up checklist to make sure you’re covering the bases with your doctor every year.
- Schedule your appointment for a convenient date and time. Running around before your child’s check-up, or needing to be somewhere immediately after, can leave you feeling rushed and overwhelmed when you’re with the doctor. Leave yourself plenty of time before your child’s scheduled appointment and avoid making plans for the hour immediately after.
- Bring books, toys or games to keep kids busy. It’s a fact of life: “Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we doctors run late,” says Dr. Rosenblum. To help avoid meltdowns or boredom, bring along something that can help keep your child (and you!) occupied while you wait.
- Have a list of questions. In the months and weeks leading up to the appointment, be sure to jot down any questions or concerns you want to address with the pediatrician. Some parents like to keep a running “note” in their smartphone, or simply jot down questions on a piece of paper kept in a wallet. In two-parent families, it’s important for both parents to go over the questions each has, especially if only one parent will be bringing the child to the appointment.
- Tell the office if you have a question that may require a longer conversation or evaluation. If you think a particular concern may require more time than usual to address with your pediatrician, or you want to prepare the doctor to discuss something specific (say a behavioral question, for example), let the office know at least one day before your appointment. “We may be able to adjust the schedule and add an additional 15 minutes to your appointment if we think the extra time will be needed,” says Dr. Rosenblum.
- Be prepared to talk about the basics. There are some topics you should be prepared to talk about with your child’s doctor at every well visit, including sleep habits and any feeding (for infants) or eating concerns. Your child’s doctor will also ask about age-appropriate safety topics, urinary or bowel problems and mental and physical developmental milestones.
- Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions or voice your concerns. It’s normal to have fears and concerns about your child’s health, but you should never be afraid to address even the most difficult topics during a well visit. “I know that parents worry a lot about whether their children are ‘normal’ and often have many questions about that,” says Dr. Rosenblum. “Well visits are the time and the place for any and all of those questions,” she adds.
- Bring any forms that need to be signed. If there are any forms from your child’s daycare or school that need to be updated, be sure to bring them with you. Getting paperwork updated during a well visit can save a lot of time and frustration later.