Parents should expect as much as 45 minutes to an hour for the appointment. Do yourself a favor and make time for a thorough, unhurried visit. Plan it at a time that you don’t need to rush anywhere after the visit.
Consider leaving time for something fun and flexible to do with your child after the appointment. Give them something to look forward to beyond the doctor visit.
Try not to be overly concerned about your child’s reaction to shots. If you talk about it too much, you might create unnecessary anxiety for them.
“Some children even do better if they just find out about the shots once they are at the office,” said Dr. Monroe. “Parents need to use their own judgment – they know their child best.”
If a child has already heard friends or siblings talking about the shots, simply be honest and reassuring.
Children with autism and other developmental delays tend to be frightened and need a lot of verbal reassurance. “They may need a lot of verbal preparation about when you’re going, who you’ll see and what to expect,” said Dr. Monroe. “Be calm and honest with your child and talk to the doctor’s office in advance about concerns.”
Screenings to Expect
Developmental* * Developmental screenings check for how your child is learning, speaking, behaving, playing and moving.
Shots to Expect
The following vaccinations can all be given in one visit. If a parent specifically asks to split shots between ages 4 and 5, it can be done. “We tend to do them all at once because the pain response is not really different when you split them up, but the anxiety of knowing that there are more at the next visit can be significant for some children.”
DTaP – (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis)
Polio (might be given as a combo with DTaP)
MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)
Chicken Pox Vaccine (Varicella)
Hepatitis A (if not finished previously)
Flu Shot (if appropriate time of year)
Following shots, there may be some minor pain, redness and/or a low-grade fever. If concerned, call your doctor.
Take a Team Approach
Everyone in the family should be invested in a child’s health. Come with written questions and notes about medical history and recent developments in the family.
“It can be good for other caregivers to come along, but the most informed person should always make it a priority to be there to answer and ask questions,” said Dr. Monroe. “It’s important that the adults who bring children in have as much information as possible so they can answer the doctor’s questions and address any concerns.”
Listen and Be Interactive
Turn your cell phone off and limit distractions during a child’s doctor visits. “You want to be able to fully listen and understand everything the doctor is asking or telling you,” said Dr. Monroe. “It’s a good time to turn full attention to the child for many reasons.”
Aside from seasonal flu vaccines, which might be administered as an optional nasal spray for healthy kids, they won’t need regular shots until 6th grade. Parents should schedule a well-child visit every single year. It might be good to schedule it around a specific memorable date. Consider planning it after a birthday, during summer break or at another set time.
“We need to see children every year to watch growth and development,” said Dr. Monroe. “That need really never ends. It should continue through the college years.”
Times of Concern
Don’t wait for a well-child visit if there are concerns about a child’s physical, emotional or psychological health. “For example, school performance, ADHD, depression, emotional changes or other big concerns should be addressed at the time of concern,” said Dr. Monroe. “It is best to schedule a devoted visit for anything new that arises.”
Pay close attention to children when there are major changes at home such as a big move, loss of a family member, deployment, separation or divorce. Be sure their physical and emotional needs are taken care of, and make extra time to talk with them and really listen to them.
“If a child becomes withdrawn, loses or gains noticeable weight or changes eating habits, contact their doctor,” said Dr. Monroe. “Children should also be brought in to see the doctor if they complain of a pain in an arm, leg, belly or other specific area.”