Explain to the child why an annual health examination is required
Children are more likely to cooperate when they are included in the decision making and when they understand the reasons. Explain to them why it is necessary to identify and treat illnesses early and to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including participation in sports at school. When a child understands the reasons behind these visits they are less likely to resent or fear a visit to the physician.
Depending on the maturity of the child, have him or her responsible for bringing the school physical form to the appointment to be signed by the physician. This will communicate that it is not only the parents that are concerned about the child’s health, but it is also a requirement for school admission. The child is more likely to cooperate when he or she realizes that having an annual health examination is not only something that is encouraged, but required by several authorities. This is a good time to review the recommended immunization schedule with the child, if he or she is mature for this activity. If this is reviewed together before the appointment, it may provide an opportunity to answer questions and alleviate fears. Also, psychologically, the child will not be taken by surprise when the nurse approaches with a syringe. The child should be encouraged to ask questions, and when possible be treated like an equal partner in his or her health care.
The immunization guideline is presented in two tables: one covers birth to 15 months of age and the other chart covers 18 months to 18 years. These tables reflect the recommended ages for each vaccination. However, there are times when the desired schedule is not possible and a “catch up” immunization is initiated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) developed this guideline to protect children from preventable illnesses that can be fatal.
What are some other recommendations for parents to help their children to make this annual health visit a positive experience? One approach could be to associate the visit with something that the child considers as fun such as going to the movies, a museum, amusement park, playground, swimming pool or some outdoor activities that the child enjoys. If the child is able, he can be responsible for planning the activity. This could be a bonding experience and an opportunity for the parents to spend quality time with the child.
Another approach could be to have the child relate the visit to the other siblings and/or parent. This will allow the child to describe his or her interpretation of the visit and may open the door for clarification, if necessary. In addition, the child may feel empowered by sharing his or her experience, which can boost self confidence and a sense of being in control.
The annual health examination
This can be a positive experience for most children. Parents can ease the anxiety and help to prepare the child for the visit. Is it time to schedule the appointment?