Parents and caregivers are busier than ever. For some, sports and after-school activities are back in full swing. Others face the demands of scheduling disruptions due to the pandemic. It’s easy to see why you might be tempted to skip doctor appointments, especially if your child isn’t sick.
But resist temptation. Here’s why it’s so important for kids and young adults to see a doctor every year.
Kids are susceptible to everything from stomach bugs to strep throat. Not everything is preventable, but thanks to vaccines that have wiped out deadly diseases, a steady vaccination schedule during childhood minimize or completely removes the risk of certain childhood diseases like measles and polio.
You may also be surprised that the Recommendations for Pediatric Preventive Health Care also include age-appropriate assessment for Body Mass Index (BMI), mental and behavioral health, sexual activity, tobacco, drug and alcohol usage, autism, even depression.
Monitoring mental, physical, and behavioral development
Parents are often concerned about their children’s behavior and growth. Whether something happens on the playground or your child is wetting the bed, the place to address fears and questions may not be internet chat forums or parenting groups. Your pediatrician can assess how well your young one is growing physically and can offer expertise on how to handle behavioral health concerns. Pediatricians also know when it’s time to refer you to a specialist who can further assist.
Discussing concerns and getting advice
Parents often feel a little “crazy” in their parenting roles, whether it’s the first child or the fifth. It may be especially difficult if you’re a single parent or guardian, an LGBTQ family, or a grandparent raising a child. Parenting is hard no matter how you’re doing it. Talk to your pediatrician in private about what you’re dealing with, whether it’s an abusive spouse or a difficult financial situation, or a death in the family. All of these things have bearing on the life of the young person in your care. Together, you and your pediatrician can talk through ways to provide the healthiest environment for yourself and the child.
Providing safe space for adolescents, teens, young adults
Children generally see a pediatrician up through 18 years of age but often into their college years and beyond (until they’re off their parents’ insurance). Around 10 or 12 years of age, your pediatrician will want to have confidential discussions with your child that may be somewhat embarrassing for an adolescent but would be much more embarrassing if you were in the room. Things like sex, drugs, alcohol, and vaping are common topics. Your pediatrician may also ask about things like room-sharing and “inappropriate touching.” This gives your child an opportunity to open up about anything that’s bothering them.
Having an up-to-date record for the school and other activities
Most public schools require annual well-visits of eligible students (those without religious or other types of exemption for medical care). The same goes for camp and sports participation. By seeing your pediatrician on an annual basis, all of your child’s well-visit information, vaccination records, and any issues along the way are recorded chronologically, and in most cases, digitally accessible by app or online.