Going to the doctor isn't just for when your child is sick.
A child’s mental health needs to be addressed at these visits as well. It is incredibly important to discuss any mental health concerns with your pediatrician; this can include but is not limited to sadness, new relationships, anger issues, feelings of depression or anxiety, bullying, changes in behaviors and/or changes in eating habits. If any of these or other concerns arise, your doctor will offer resources, advice and, if necessary, referrals to manage these to the best of their ability.
It may seem as though your pediatrician is asking questions that may or may not pertain to your child, however it’s important to remember that this is a time when subtle illnesses or conditions may be identified. It is also a time when your doctor gets to learn more about your child to create a better rapport with them! We don’t want to be remembered as the place where they have to get their shots, vaccines, or have blood work taken! We also want to be their confidants, their advocates, someone they can trust and talk to.
Who should get a physical?
Everyone should get an annual physical, and in the first 3 years of life the well child visits or physical exam visits are more frequent as there is a lot of growth and development during these early years.
What if my child is sick for their physical exam?
In most cases you can still go to your appointment, and your doctor can address both the illness and the physical exam. This is something you should discuss with your doctor when you arrive.
Will my child have to get shots at their annual physical exam?
Although many visits will coincide with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for vaccine administration, not all visits will. There are times when children will only require their yearly influenza vaccine, and other times when there will be other vaccines they are due for. If your child is due for their flu shot and hasn’t had a physical in the last year, this is a great opportunity to take care of both needs at once and only make one trip to your doctor’s office!
Pediatricians can educate parents on their child’s body, development, and offer age appropriate anticipatory guidance, including information about safety, nutrition, upcoming developmental milestones, and behavior, so it's important to get your child's annual physical.