Jun 13 , 2020

Making Checkups More Bearable for Little Ones

Getting an annual check-up isn’t a fun experience for babies and tiny toddlers. Excessive crying, temper tantrums, and a distrust of the doctor often make a 2-hour appointment feel like an eternity for many parents and children. When kids don’t learn to relax and trust the family doctor at a young age, they’re very likely to have a sour view on important check-ups when they’re older. This can mean hiding during mandatory schoolwide vaccinations or even ignoring troubling symptoms.

Visiting the doctor at a young age is a vital step towards achieving healthy growth and development. Your family pediatrician will help you keep track of how well your child is growing and diagnose any underlying conditions that might have slipped past your radar. He or she will also need to administer much-needed vaccinations in order to strengthen your child’s immune system. Your baby or toddler might feel a bit anxious about suddenly being cared for by someone new in the beginning, but you can ease their anxieties and help them relax using these great tips.

Why Go to the Doctor?

Many parents are anxious about bringing their little ones to the doctor so many times in a year. Nonetheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends annual well-child visits (i.e. annual check-ups) for four main reasons:

1. Prevention: Very young children need to receive mandatory vaccinations and proper nutritional plans in order to build up a good immune system. Bringing your child to the doctor while they’re still very young will give them the strength needed to play outside or attend daycare without suffering from infections. Vaccinations will also ensure that your kids don’t suffer from serious illnesses like chickenpox and hepatitis when they’re much older.


2. Proper Growth and Development: You’ll need to keep your doctor in the know and let them keep track of your child’s growth. Your doctor will be able to find out whether or not there are delays in your child’s development by taking note of their height, weight, vision, and other important details. Working together with your doctor will ensure that your child maintains good physical growth and vital developmental milestones.


3. Raising Important Concerns: Good parenting often means approaching topics you won’t always know about. You can find out more about how to maintain your child’s health and growth by asking your doctor important questions and discussing certain topics with them, such as building social skills and helping kids sleep better.


4. Team Spirit: You can build a stronger relationship with your pediatrician during every visit and work together to achieve optimum physical, mental, and social health for your child. Communicating properly and sharing vital information will also help your doctor come up with good treatment plans or diets to follow at home.


What to Expect During a Regular Check-up

1. Physical examinations: Checkups for babies and toddlers will usually begin with a physical exam. Your pediatrician will need to take note of important measurements, such as weight and height, and plot them on a graph in order to see how well he is growing compared to other children his age. After that, the pediatrician will then examine your baby from head to toe in order to assess his overall health.


2. Developmental screenings: Your doctor won’t just observe your child’s physical growth. He will also need to check up on whether or not your child is keeping up with much needed developmental milestones. You might need to discuss things with your doctor and answer important questions during this time.


3. Vaccinations: Important injections are a must during any well-child visit. Your doctor will give instructions on how to keep your baby calm and hold them properly during a booster shot. After each injection, they can also help you soothe your baby by letting them play with toys in their office.


4. Discussions: During each checkup, your doctor might ask questions about how well your baby is doing at home. He will also need to know about their medical history and offer advice about ensuring their safety in and out of the house. You can also prepare a list of topics beforehand and discuss them with your doctor during important visits.


5. Important tests: Well-child visits will help you know whether your child is at risk of any serious illnesses. Your doctor might have to perform some tests to check for signs of anemia, lead poisoning, digestive problems, and other health problems.


Helping Your Child Feel Safe During a Checkup


It’s normal for kids to be a bit afraid of the strange and unknown. Babies and toddlers who are still getting used to annual checkups can often become very stressed and anxious, especially if there are any examinations or vaccinations involved. Here are some tips for helping your child feel safe at the doctor’s office.


1. Stay with them every step of the way

Having a loyal companion stay with us during difficult times is always a great stress reliever. Parents can ease their children’s worries and help them feel more secure by letting them sit in their laps during examinations or shots. Your baby or toddler won’t feel helpless or vulnerable when they know that you’re there to protect them.

Most kids learn to gauge how dangerous something is by observing their parents’ reactions. Your child will feel more relaxed and secure during a checkup when they see you getting along well with the doctor. They’ll also learn to adjust to a new location when they see you acting relaxed inside the clinic or hospital.


2. Choose a schedule that works

Your child won’t fuss or feel too fearful when you choose a schedule that doesn’t interfere with their natural sleeping and eating times. Making babies and toddlers go to the doctor too early in the morning or too late at night will only result in visits that are way too exhausting and stressful for everyone. If there’s a bit of a line in the waiting room, you can entertain your child in the meantime by letting them play with their favorite toys or books, as well as feeding them healthy snacks and drinks. It’s also important to only schedule appointments after your child has eaten a full meal and slept properly.


3. Play with toys and games

Even if your child is very young, you can still let them know what to expect during a visit by playing with toys and coming up with fun games. For example, you can pretend to be a doctor and “examine” imaginary patients using toy injections and stethoscopes. You can also help your little one know more about a checkup by reading age-appropriate books on the topic or by watching videos and cartoons together.


4. Stay calm, collected, and honest

It’s natural to feel a bit stressed or anxious about your child’s upcoming checkup. However, your child won’t relax if he sees you acting too nervous on your way to the doctor’s office. Using checkups as punishments or painting doctors as strict people aren’t wise ways to broach the topic as they will only make little kids more reluctant to cooperate during important exams.

Instead of warning your child about the checkup for several days, try holding off on giving her info until the special day itself. Communicate with your child in an enthusiastic and perky manner so that she’ll know checkups aren’t something to be afraid of. Emphasize that if she ever feels scared during a vaccination you’ll be there to hold his hand and keep him safe. You can also offer rewards for good behavior during a visit so that your child has a reason to be brave.

You might be tempted to soften the blow when discussing vaccinations with your little one. However, it’s much better to be honest about everything so that your child is better prepared. Kids are more likely to scream and feel terrified during a vaccination when they aren’t informed on what to expect.


5. Use fun toys and tricks

Another great way to make checkups less stressful for your toddler is by diverting your baby or toddler’s attention using sweets and fun toys. You can let your baby play with stuffed animals, rattles, or other entertaining stuff to keep them calm. You can also ease your child’s worries by letting them listen to their favorite songs or by playing fun games like “I Spy”. If your tiny toddler is still a bit nervous and unsure, you can come up with games that will teach them how to do calming exercises like deep breathing or counting objects in a room.

Allowing your little ones to bring their favorite stuffed toys to a checkup will also help them feel more safe and secure. Your kids will also feel more at ease when their pediatrician demonstrates how exams are done using a toy or an older sibling.


6. Offer rewards after each visit

Giving your kids praise and small rewards will make it much easier for them to feel comfortable during succeeding visits. After every checkup offer praise for good behavior (“You were so brave! I’m so proud of you!”) or reward them with gold stars and a trip to the ice cream parlor. Even if your little one loses their composure during a visit you can still praise them for trying their best to behave well and offer some comforting words. That way, your child won’t feel so guilty about not being able to control their fear during a checkup.