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Visiting the doctor or going to the hospital can be stressful and confusing for children, adolescents and their families. Preparation and education make a positive impact on coping with these events. As parents or caregivers, you play essential roles in helping children and adolescents handle healthcare experiences.

How to Prepare and Talk to Your Child or Adolescent:

Tell your child where you are going and why. Then, ask them about their feelings and why they think they need a doctor visit.

  • Example: "We are going to visit the doctor for a check-up. Do you know why you need a doctor visit? How do you feel about going to the doctor?"

Allow a few minutes for the child to think about the questions and respond. This helps you hear what your child understands and correct any misconceptions.

Many children assume that a doctor or hospital visit is a type of punishment, so it is important to reassure your child that he/she did nothing wrong. Below are suggestions of what to say depending on the situation:

  • Routine exam: "This is something everyone needs to do. The doctor wants to see that you are healthy and that you stay healthy."

  • Special test: "This is a special test to find out what is going on inside your body so the doctors can help you feel better."

  • Procedure or surgery: "The doctors are going to fix your tummy (or other body part) to try to make it better."

     

Doctor and hospital visits, tests, surgery, insurance paperwork, and medicines: take some confusion out of the process.

Be an Advocate for Yourself and Your Child:

Being prepared for a doctor or hospital visit reduces stress not only for children and adolescents, but also for parents.

 #1: Understand your child’s medical needs

Tell your child’s doctor and hospital staff about:

  • Any sensitivities or allergies to medications, foods or latex products
  • Any medications your child is currently taking

#2: You have a right to know

Do not hesitate to ask the doctor or hospital staff for information.

  • You should not be afraid to question or want more knowledge. This helps you gain a sense of what is going on in your child's care and will better prepare you to offer your child explanations.
  • You have the right to information about the purpose of a test, medication or treatment.

#3: Possible questions to ask when visiting the doctor or hospital:

  • "How can I help my child if he or she is in pain?"
  • "What are the risks and benefits of the procedure and how long will it take?"
  • "May I stay overnight with my child in his or her room?"
  • "What are the visitation policies for siblings and family?"
  • "Is there a playroom for my child to use?"
  • "Is there a Child Life Specialist available to help me and my child cope with this experience?"