While most parents make sure to schedule regular wellness checks for their kids, many don’t consistently prepare questions to ask the pediatrician ahead of time so they can make the most of the visit, a new report finds.
Responses to a national poll revealed that 25% of parents say they "often" prepare a list of questions to ask a pediatrician during their visit, 54% said they "sometimes" do and 21% "never" do, according to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
“Clearly there are some things parents could do both to get more benefit and to make it easier on the provider to focus on places where parents have questions or concerns,” Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, tells TODAY.com. “A lot of parents aren’t doing the preparatory work to get answers to things they worry about.”
For example, parents might have questions for their pediatrician about whether to use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat a child's fever, or they might want to get the doctor’s opinion about a teacher’s comment on their child having difficulty focusing or paying attention, says Clark, also a research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Michigan.
Bringing in a list of questions is helpful for both parents and their child's provider, agrees Dr. Maureen Ahmann, a staff pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic.
Tips to prepare questions for pediatrician visit
A helpful trick is to write down your questions or concerns in your smartphone's notes section as they arise, Ahmann says.
And any time someone says something about your child that concerns you — whether it’s a teacher, baby sitter or family member — bring it up with your pediatrician, Dr. Edith Bracho Sanchez, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tells TODAY.com.
“Knowing what you’re worried about helps us either to reassure you or to tell you that Grandma might be right in this case,” Bracho Sanchez says. “And in this day and age with almost every parent on social media, they can have concerns when they compare their child to whatever the latest social media influencer’s child is doing. It’s a dilemma of modern parenting.”
While questions to ask your pediatrician will vary depending on the child, there are some that that can apply to any child, Ahmann says. If you're not sure what topic areas to ask about, some helpful ones include:
- Healthy eating habits. What should my child be eating? And what portion size is best?
- Extracurricular activities. How many extracurricular activities should my child participate in? How many would be too much for the child? When is it OK to cut back or to add, say, swimming to soccer?
- Safety concerns about new toys, such as trampolines, changes to the home, such as a pool, or other kids' entertainment trends.
- Developmental milestones. Is my child hitting milestones, such as walking, on time? And if not do we need to worry?
Questions more parents should ask pediatricians
Among the questions Bracho Sanchez is always happy to hear are:
What should I be doing next?
“I always love it when parents ask me how to stimulate different aspects of development," Bracho Sanchez says. "I’ve been asked, for example, what they can do to stimulate speech, or to help their kids start walking. Parenting is hard, so I always want to be present and helpful as a pediatrician whenever a parent is able to find a little time to think and plan ahead.”
Could you give me some ideas about what I can feed my child?
“As busy parents, it’s hard to think of ways to incorporate different food groups, to present foods in ways toddlers will find appealing, etc.,” Bracho Sanchez says. “Feeding kids is a big part of parenting, so I am always happy to support parents as best I can to think of practical, creative ways to present healthy meals to their kids.”
Do you have tips for optimizing my family's sleep?
“The whole family’s rest depends on the child sleeping, and a parent who is rested is able to be present and engaged,” Bracho Sanchez says. “So I spend a lot of time as a pediatrician talking to parents about ways to optimize sleep for their kids depending on the age. The advice is different depending on how old a child is, but it is a conversation I welcome, and parents should use their pediatricians as resources.”
Are there things I should bring up with my child’s teacher?
“I view teachers as an important part of the team in ensuring kids are healthy and thriving,” Bracho-Sanchez explains. “When we come up with a plan in the office — whether that is to treat a medical condition like asthma or to manage certain behaviors — it’s often helpful to let teachers know so they can reinforce what parents are doing at home. Teachers also have important insight into kids’ behavior, so as a pediatrician, I often encourage and sometimes facilitate the conversation between parents and teachers.”
There’s a lot of scary stuff out there about the COVID-19 vaccination, so why should I give it to my child?
The original COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children 6 months and older. The updated, bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is available to kids 6 months and older who received a primary series of either the Modern or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.
“Parents need to know that no question is silly and no question is too small or too big for us,” Bracho Sanchez says. “And if we don’t know the answer, we can connect you with someone who will, whether it’s a psychologist or a nutritionist or someone else.”