From the moment your baby is born until you send them off to college, your child will be seeing his/her pediatrician for “well child check-ups”. These are regularly scheduled visits which occur quite frequently when you have a baby or toddler and become a yearly visit once your child is over the age of 3. The well child visit is an extremely important part of a pediatrician’s job, and is also your child’s medical home.
In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a pediatrician is having the privilege to observe a child from birth through their teens, in a sense, “helping to raise them”. Therein lays the reason for check-ups.
When you see your pediatrician for a check-up, I’m sure you get your child’s weight, height, BMI, (and blood pressure once they are older), as well as their growth percentiles.
The doctor also does a physical exam on your child, which is hopefully all normal. But there is a lot more than that to your visit. This is the time for your doctor to discuss your child’s milestones; whether that is sitting up for the first time, first words or how they are performing in first grade. These conversations continue for all of your child’s school years as well.
It is also the time to discuss multiple other topics which should include sleep habits, nutrition and safety which is pertinent to all age groups. As your child gets older the conversation should include discussions about school performance, bullying, studying, screen time, family meals, exercise, and the child’s interests.
For the teen patient I think it is important to discuss sexuality, peer pressures, driving, and the adolescent’s long term goals. The list goes on and on, but certain topics should certainly be yearly discussions which are then tailored to the age of the child.
As a child gets older it is important to have some time where the doctor may be alone with the adolescent who may want some “private time” with the doctor. It is equally important that the exam includes time spent with the both the parent and the adolescent to wrap up the check up and answer any questions that a parent may have had that their adolescent did not.
For my patients 18 and older, I find that many times their parents do not come for their check-ups as the relationship has now become a bit more about a young adult with their doctor. Everyone is different and there is not a “right” way to handle the adolescent, but it is more important to have an open rapport and conversation between patient and doctor.
Lastly, every check-up should have time for questions. It is helpful if parents have a list of questions ready for the doctor. Young parents often have simple questions as they are new parents. So, they often start off with “I think this is a stupid question…” but, there is not a “dumb” question as they have never been parents before. For parents with older children the questions are often more lengthy and may even require another visit or phone call to follow-up or complete the conversation. In either case, the check-up is the place for questions.
I really enjoy my patient’s check-ups and continue to realize the importance of the well child exam and the doctor-patient relationship. Don’t miss them.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.