Make Time for Well-Child Visits
As a busy parent, you’re juggling it all―dashing from work to soccer practice to dance class, making time for birthday parties, teacher conferences, and family dinners around the kitchen table. While it may feel tough to fit it all in, here’s something you don’t want to skip: well-child visits. Recommended for infants, children, and teens, these medical appointments are the time for vaccinations, important health screenings, and a check of your child’s development. Plus, they’re an opportunity for you to ask questions and voice concerns.
By some estimates, children miss between 30% to 50% of these crucial visits. That can be risky: Kids who skip well-child visits are more likely to fall behind on the vaccines they need to stay healthy. They may also face an increased risk for hospitalizations and emergency department visits.
Heed the tips below to make scheduling and keeping well-child visits easier, and to help you make the most of them.
Know when to go. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well-child visits for babies and young toddlers at 3 to 5 days old, then at months 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, and 30. Starting at 3 years old, kids need one preventive-care visit every year through age 21.
Make scheduling (and remembering) a cinch. Take advantage of appointment reminders―by phone, text, or email―offered by the pediatrician’s office. Schedule well-child appointments at the same time each year, such as before the start of school, to help you remember. And always say “yes” if office staff offer to schedule the next well visit while you’re already there.
Understand the big wellness benefits. Unlike sick visits, where the focus is on diagnosing and treating illness, every well-child visit covers a wide range of health needs, depending on your child’s age. These include:
A physical exam
Checks of vision, hearing, cholesterol, and blood pressure at recommended ages, plus autism spectrum disorder screening
An assessment of your child’s emotional health
For adolescents, time for confidential conversations about issues such as drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual activity, and depression
Keep up with your rapidly growing child. Kids’ minds and bodies grow quickly. Well visits help you keep pace with what they need now. These appointments give you time to talk about topics like:
Strengthen your partnership with the pediatrician. Chat away! Conversations with the pediatrician or family provider at wellness visits are a great way to build a relationship that can enhance your child’s health. By speaking freely, you’re adding more information to your child’s health history and helping the provider better understand their wellness needs.
Get set for success. Make the most out of every visit. Before your appointment, jot down three to five questions about your child’s well-being that you’d like to discuss. Take this opportunity to ask about anything ranging from immunizations and health conditions to changes in behavior and problems learning in school. Other important questions include:
How can I make sure my child is getting enough physical activity and eating healthy?
Is my child at a healthy weight?
What’s the best way to teach my child how to use the internet safely?
Do you have tips for talking with my child about bullying?
How do I help my child know what to expect during puberty?