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How to Get What You Want from the Pediatrician

Get your child undressed before the exam, if you are so asked. Lots of kids resist taking their clothes off, so their parents wait until the doctor comes in to start wrestling with them. This is a waste of time and a major irritant to doctors. "Skin can tell you so much about what's going on," says Andrew Baumel. "The child really needs to be undressed to be examined properly."

Greet the doctor as if she is an old friend. It will put your child at ease, particularly if she sees the doctor infrequently. If the doc doesn't greet your child by name (a good doctor will), casually reintroduce them: "Chloe's grown a lot since last time, Dr. Harmon." Your friendliness toward the doctor signals confidence in her, which will make your child more cooperative.

Keep your tone of voice calm and cheerful. If your voice is important when you visit your own doctor, it is doubly so at the pediatrician's office. "The child picks up all the parent's cues," says Baumel. "When parents are nervous, the child feeds off it. Parents can make the child much, much more anxious than he would be on his own." Your tone is more important than the words you say, so if you can't keep the anxiety out of your voice, say nothing at all.

Ask the pediatrician what she will be doing during the exam. This is for your child's peace of mind. Sometimes the doctor will volunteer the information, but often they just start right in questioning you or examining your child.

Tell the pediatrician good news as well as bad. Progress is just as important as problems in helping the doctor assess your child's development. If your son is getting along better with his older brother, excelling at reading, or playing an instrument, let the doctor know. It provides a more balanced view than when you simply list all the problem areas.

Separate fact and opinion, and be specific. When describing problems, make a distinction between your worries and what has actually taken place. For example, say, "I'm concerned that Cindy may be backsliding in her toilet training. She has an accident about once a week," not, "Cindy's backsliding on her toilet training – she has accidents all the time."

Bring help if you're bringing other kids. If it's noisy, the doctor will not be able to give his full attention to the child who is there for the checkup. She needs to listen to the heart and lungs, talk to you without interruptions, and focus on your child. You need to focus on the child, too. It's best if only the two of you are in the examining room.

Stay calm and steady during shots. Your attitude will keep the tension low and help your child deal with the pain. Do not apologize, grimace, or in any way indicate that there is a choice about this procedure. You can be mildly sympathetic, but the moment you start looking anxious your child will get even more upset. If the child really puts up a struggle, follow the nurse's directions to restrain him, and be kind but firm. After the shot, thank the nurse, hug your child, and congratulate him on a job well done. That's the end of it – no big deal.

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From Say the Magic Words by Lynette Padwa. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, go to Amazon.


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