Taking your kids to the pediatrician can be tough! Even if your kids aren't sick and grumpy, they're in an unfamiliar environment and may have to wait a while and do things that are a bit unpleasant. Here are some strategies that we've used to help those visits go smoothly!
Plan your child's visit at a time that is good for their schedule. You don't want to go immediately before nap time, or when your little ones might be getting hungry and grouchy. Obviously you don't always have complete control over when you are able to get an appointment, but do what you can to ensure that you're going at a time that is good for your child. Newborns are much more unpredictable, but luckily the doctor's office doesn't seem to phase them quite so much. One of my daughters received her entire 2 month check-up (including shots, and a brief squawk before I could nurse her) while zonked out in my arms.
You need a doctor's kit. For several days before doctor visits, play pretend with your child and explain the different instruments that they'll see and procedures that they'll experience. Let them be the doctor, let them be the patient, use stuffed animals or dolls, use siblings. It will help them be more comfortable when they see the real doctor and his or her real instruments. My daughter even brought her own toy doctor's kit to an appointment, and our pediatrician let her give him a check-up before it was time for hers.
Talk It Up
Talk about the doctor's office in a positive way. Make sure your children know that doctors are there to make sure they are healthy, growing well, and to keep them from getting sick. Be honest, especially if shots may be involved, but put as much of a positive spin on the doctor as possible. I also always remind my girls that they'll get stickers when they're done, and about any exciting things that may happen as a result of their continued growth and health. For example, I thought that Lena was tall enough to move out of her car seat and into a high back booster seat, but wanted to wait until her "official" measurement at her check-up to be sure. She knew that after that measurement, she would get a new, "grown-up" car seat!
Many children's shows have episodes about going to the doctor. If you have Netflix or Amazon Prime, you can easily scroll through your child's favorites to try to find one they'll like.
Most likely, your child will be undressing for their exam. They should wear something that is easy for you to get on and off. Avoid snaps, tights, and frills. I know you want to show off how cute they are, but they're going to be undressed soon anyway! Trust me, your pediatrician will still notice how cute they are!
Bring a Lovie
Let your child bring their favorite blanky or lovie for comfort. Our pediatrician also gives my daughters' dolls a check up before the real thing, and he explains what he is doing.
Your pediatrician may not allow snacks, but if they do, bring something to munch on. Make sure it's not crumby and that it doesn't contain common allergens (no peanut butter crackers!). I try to bring something that will take a long time to eat to help pass the time. I'm not ashamed to admit that I often bring a lollipop. Apple slices for an older toddler, or puffs or yogurt melts for a younger child might also be good (better) choices.
Bring Things To Do
You're going to have to wait. Make sure you have some books or simple toys to keep your little one occupied. Having something to do will also help keep worries and anxieties away. I try not to even give my girls a chance to get concerned, but instead keep them engaged and busy as soon as we walk in the door. Our pediatrician's office has some books and toys, but think about all the little germy hands that have been all over them! Bring your own.
Make Sure They Know What Is Happening
Many pediatricians will tell young patients what they are doing, and show children the instruments that they're using. If your pediatrician is not very chatty about what they're doing or why, feel free to chime in yourself and tell your child what is happening. They'll feel better.
Let Your Kids Sit In Your Lap
Most pediatricians will allow and even encourage your kids sit in your lap during an exam. Of course, there are parts of an exam when it's not possible, but let them sit with you as long as possible.
Make sure your kids know that they'll get something special after their doctor's visit if they do a good job. My pediatrician gives out stickers, and then I try to do something fun afterwards as well. We may have a picnic in the park or stop by a playground. Or maybe I'll get them a new book or a little sticker or activity book.
Praise Them Afterwards
In addition to telling your children that they did a great job, let them hear you bragging about their good behavior to other people. Call grandparents. Tell dad over dinner. They'll hear you and feel proud of themselves.
Do you have any other tips that help doctor visits go smoothly? Leave them in the comments below!
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