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Navigate your kids’ annual checkups at any age with these tips from AHN Pediatrics

“What questions should I be asking my child’s pediatrician? At what age do I need to leave the exam room during their visit and how can I help them transition to making medical decisions on their own?” 

If you’re a parent of a child under the age of 3, you’re probably quite familiar with your pediatrician’s office thanks to sick visits and regular checkups. But after your child turns 3, your pediatrician only needs to see them once a year. 

 As your little kid grows into a tween, and then a young adult, their need for privacy and increased responsibility over their medical care increases. AHN Pediatrics[SH((H1]  will help you understand what to expect before and during your child’s annual checkups at any age.

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Photo courtesy of AHN Pediatrics via Getty Images.

How do I prepare for each visit?

A lot can happen in the year between each well-child visit. In the weeks before the appointment, write out a list of questions to ask your child’s doctor, with additional information and descriptions of anything that concerns you.  

“Try to communicate any major concerns at the beginning of the visit, usually when you’re seeing the nurse or medical assistant before the doctor steps in,” says Brook McHugh, MD, of AHN Pediatrics. “They may be able to answer some of your questions and help the doctor to understand the important items you are hoping will be addressed.” 

In addition, don’t assume your doctor knows anything that happens outside of the office. If your child is under the care of another doctor or service (like physical therapy or early intervention programs), make sure you bring copies of any documents that might be helpful.

If you’re stuck on what questions to ask your child’s doctor, here are some suggestions to get you started:

·       Is my child’s growth and weight on track?

·       What milestones should I expect next?

·       Is it normal that my child… ?

·       Should I be worrying about… ?

When does my child need to see their doctor by themselves?

Around the age of 12 or 13, your child’s pediatrician may ask you to step out of the room for a few moments during their visit. This is a big change for both of you, but it’s a crucial first step in helping them become responsible for their health care. 

“Before your child could talk, it was your job to advocate for their medical care,” says Dr. McHugh. “But as they get older, it’s important to give them a voice when it comes to making informed decisions about their health.” 

When does my child have to stop seeing their pediatrician?

AHN pediatricians can treat kids up to age 21. But it’s up to your child when they want to make the transition from pediatrician to family or internal medicine doctor. Some teens prefer the doctor they grew up with and want to see them for as long as possible, while others may not. 

No matter who your older teen wants to see for their medical care, it’s important to prepare them to make health care decisions on their own once they turn 18. You can do this by letting them do most of the talking during their appointment, respecting their opinions about treatment (outside of necessary care), and supporting their independence and need for privacy. 

If you have more questions on navigating annual checkups as your kids get older, call their pediatrician or contact AHN Pediatrics.