Your Child's Health Needs

How to Make the Most of Your Child’s Well Visit

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By Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D.

Back-to-school season often brings kids to the pediatrician for annual well visits. Whether your child is getting cleared for school, ensuring she’s in top shape to participate in sports or receiving necessary vaccinations, it’s important for parents and kids alike to make the most of the visit.

Key Questions for Your Pediatrician

While well visits are typically brief, they’re also an opportunity for parents to take advantage of face time with a physician. During every visit, no matter what your child’s age, make sure you address the following four points with your child’s doctor:

  1. Is my child growing appropriately? While every child grows at a different rate, it’s important to make sure they fall within the normal range for measures such as height, weight and head circumference (for babies and infants). Your doctor will not only ensure these numbers are “normal” as compared to the same-age population, but also that he or she is growing according to personal trends. For younger children, height, weight and head circumference can help a doctor spot nutritional issues, genetic syndromes and special needs.
  1. Is my child up to date on vaccinations? It’s important for kids to stay on schedule with vaccinations to ensure they’re protected against dangerous illnesses, such as measles, polio and pertussis, especially if they attend school or day care. Younger children may require more frequent visits to stay up to date. Older children often need booster doses of certain vaccinations when they reach adolescent age. No matter what your child’s age, make sure to prepare him/her for the visit, so they know they’ll be receiving a needle stick or two. And don’t forget to return in the fall to get a flu vaccination for your child.
  1. Is my child developing appropriately? Your pediatrician will monitor when your young child reaches specific milestones — things like rolling over, talking, walking and achieving fine motor skills. Ask which milestones your child should be reaching and what you should anticipate before the next visit. Similarly, when children reach the preteen years and adolescence, you may have questions about school performance, attention span, puberty, screen time and other concerns.
  1. Is there anything I can do to encourage my child’s social and emotional needs? If your child is not in school or day care, your doctor may have suggestions to help you foster his social and emotional growth. It’s important for children to have opportunities to interact with other kids their age and learn about sharing, conflict resolution and other skills that come from being in a group environment. Parents of older children and may need help distinguishing between normal adolescent angst and depression or anxiety.

Plan Ahead for Your Visit

Parents may only see their child’s pediatrician once or twice a year, so it’s especially important to come prepared. Write down questions and concerns in advance — or keep a running list on your phone for when a question pops into your head. And make sure you ask your children if they have questions for the doctor, too.

The office visit can be busy. Children may be unruly, nurses may be focused on delivering vaccinations or you may hear children screaming in another room. If you’re prepared, these outside influences won’t affect your ability to get your questions answered – or to address problem areas.

Most important, if you don’t feel comfortable asking your pediatrician certain questions, or you feel like your child’s doctor is rushing you out of the room, talk with him or her about your concerns. If you don’t see changes during the next visit, consider looking for another physician. Having a good relationship with your child’s physician is essential.

To find a pediatrician at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). You can also read more wellness advice in our ParentWell section, so subscribe to get all the latest tips.