Going to a pediatrician can be a stressful experience for children. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops – and for some kids, it’s downright terrifying. With all the poking and prodding in ears, noses, and throats. And when there are needles involved it ups the ante. Naturally, as parents you want it to go as smoothly as possible. While shedding a few tears is perfectly fine, even just a little bit of upfront groundwork and conversation goes a long way.
From what happens at a first appointment with a pediatrician to questions you can ask, here’s our guide to how you can prepare your little ones for a pediatric appointment.
What to Expect at Your First Pediatric Appointment
Oh baby! So, you’ve officially entered the world of parenthood. Typically, the pediatrician would’ve checked in on your newborn 3-5 days after birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, that is.
If possible, ask for an appointment during the least busy part of the day. It’s also a good idea to find out if your pediatrician has specific time slots for consulting with newborns. Your first visit should take around half an hour – be prepared for waiting and delays though. This probably comes as no surprise since babies are unpredictable little beings.
But what exactly happens during this visit with your pediatric?
Well, routine checks. And there are quite a few to go through. It’s also important that you feel that this consultation with your pediatrician is informative – you’re a new parent and professional guidance will come in handy.
Be prepared to fill in some paperwork. This could range from anything like health insurance information to your medical history, as well as the baby’s discharge weight.
Speaking of weight – prepare for the scale to come out again. And what about all the checks? Well, the doctor will quite literally check everything from head to those teeny, little toes. Ensuring nothing is irregular when it comes to growth, development, and so on.
Don’t be shy to ask your pediatrician questions during your first consultation. Some examples of questions new parents tend to ask during pediatric appointments are:
- Is this behavior normal?
- Is my baby eating enough? How often and how much should I feed my baby?
- Should my baby’s stool look like that?
- When should I schedule my next appointment?
- What should I expect in the next few days/weeks?
- How much crying is normal?
- What should I do when my baby has a fever?
- How much sleep should my newborn be getting? Should I wake them up in the night to feed? When will my baby sleep through the night?
- What is the safest sleeping position for my baby?
- How much spitting up is normal?
- How should I bathe my baby, and how often?
- How often do I need to change my baby’s diapers?
- How do you tell the difference between mild or severe diaper rash?
- What newborn or infant vaccinations are coming up? Are they all necessary and do I need to stick to the recommended schedule?
Tips for Planning for Any Pediatric Appointment
Eventually, you’ll be scheduling pediatric appointments for your toddler. To help make it a more positive experience for both you and your child, below are some essential tips to help you prepare.
Be Time Wise
Timing is crucial here. For instance, it might not be a good idea to schedule your pediatric appointment in the morning if your kid isn’t a morning person. Or if it’s close to naptime, you may have a potential meltdown on your hands – anyone would be upset if they missed naptime!
Talk About It In Advance
But not too far in advance. It’s important to be transparent with your child, but this will vary depending on your child’s age. For preschool-aged children and younger, having a preview chat with them the morning of the appointment or the night before will be best. And for older kids, a good idea would be to bring it up during family time when you’re chatting about other neutral topics. This helps make the idea of the appointment less scary.
Of course, you know your child best – so consider their temperament and whether they have a tendency to worry about things and decide how far in advance you should open up the discussion. If your child is a worrier, try to find a happy medium between the week of and the day of your pediatric appointment. After all, children like consistency and routine and generally don’t like to be surprised in a way that isn’t exactly positive.
Stick To The Facts
What should the preview conversation look like? Well, it’s important that you share facts about what will happen during the appointment in a calm and optimistic way. Get as specific as letting them know you’ll sit in a waiting room until your name is called and describing what the room will look like: having a clear sense of what to expect will help your child stay calm.
But what if they’re getting shots or will experience some other level of discomfort? As the adult, you need to make a judgment call here. You know your child best so approach the situation in a way that will suit them. A basic script that may be helpful here is: “You’re going to see the doctor, he/she will take your temperature under your arm and will use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs, they will check in your ears, eyes, and mouth, and you’re going to get a shot. It will hurt like a pinch for a few seconds, and then it will be over.”
Use Child-Friendly Language
While this one might go without saying, it’s understandable that children may not understand what vaccination or bloodwork means. It’s important to tell them what to expect during their pediatrician appointment in a way that they will understand. You can even play “pretend” with a little round of doctor-doctor beforehand and get them to pretend to give their teddy bear medical care. And speaking of teddies. . .
Bring A Comfort Item
Taking a comfort item along to the appointment with the pediatrician will bring an element of familiarity into the equation and help your little one feel safe and ease anxiety. You can even get them to introduce their comfort item to their pediatric which gives an easy segue into the appointment.
Validate Their Worries
If your little one is worried beforehand or when you’re at the pediatric, it’s important to validate and recognize their concerns to help them calm down and manage the situation. Some children fear the pain, while others fear the sight of blood flow, or perhaps their parents’ worried reactions. Let your child talk to you about their worries. This helps dissipate the fear and relaxes your child.
Another great tip is letting the pediatrician know that your child is feeling anxious. Involve your child in this conversation, and depending on their comfort level, encourage them to tell the doctor their concerns and ask the doctor for advice. This allows your child to feel like they are a part of it.
While you want to validate your little one’s concerns, you must also keep in mind how they view their parents as models for how to feel and manage situations. Show them that you understand this experience might be unpleasant, but you have complete confidence that they can manage it.
Children can be unpredictable, and parenting can be hard, but remember that pediatricians are trained to handle situations like this, and they’ve probably seen it all before – from tantrums to complete angels. Pediatric appointments can be stressful for both parents and children but following these guidelines will help you to feel more prepared and help put your little one at ease.
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