Survival Skills for Taking Young Children to the Medical Clinic

It was about 12:30pm. I had been at the hospital in the specialty clinic now for nearly 

three hours with two young children, parked in a small room with an exam table and one chair. The kids were bouncing off the walls and I was ready to go out of my mind.
 
Did the doctor REALLY think I could absorb what she was saying to me? I could not understand half the words she was using. This "CF-thing" was still all so new to me. Yet, my two babies' lives depended on me. Sigh. I'd better get my act together. As my son melted down and my daughter started hanging on me, I really did not feel like parent of the year.
 

 
Fast forward to about eight years later: iPads and eReaders, DVD players and cell phones, me with my laptop and able to actually understand the words the doctor is using now. My kids are able to entertain themselves and I can even get a little work done. Sometimes.
 
 
Having gone through many years of multi-hour clinic visits now, here are some tips:
 
 
 
  • Ask the hospital or clinic if they have a sibling program or play area. Our hospital now has an organized sib program. In some places, there is a child life play room or volunteers that can help entertain young children. 


  • Carry a big goodie bag of books, art supplies, games, toys, food and drinks. The appointments always go longer than you think and hungry kids are unhappy kids. Be sure to bring any special "lovies" for younger kids. You just never want to get caught without that when things are starting to go downhill. Clinic appointments can sometimes be three or four hours long depending on how many specialists you see.
 
  • When kids are two or three, bring a DVD player and a headset with favorite movies. Of course with today's electronic toys, iPads can be fully loaded with lots of entertainment including movies, music and games.
 
  • Be sure to bring a healthy dose of good parenting skills like choices, enforceable statements, and a plan for fun right afterwards as long as they behave within reason. We did have to go home without our treats on occasion because if we didn't, it would be a threat, not a consequence.  Here is an article about a child acting up in the clinic that discusses these issues. 
 
  • If possible, bring another adult along with you to help when the kids are young. Parents and medical professionals please note: Little kids can understand a lot more than they might be able to express. So, once the physical examination of the child is done, it would be really nice if he or she could go somewhere else so the parent and docs can talk openly. Have the other adult take the child(ren) to the hospital playroom, park, cafeteria, gift shop, etc. There have been times when my kids were scared by things said by doctors as they talked to me. And there were times that I didn't ask things I wanted to because my kids were there.
 
  • Lastly, try to make it as fun as you can. We would always plan a fun outing around our trip to the hospital (which is where our clinic is at). The zoo is close so sometimes we'd go there afterwards. A lot of times, I'd wrap a little present and they could open it after they finished (and fully cooperated) with the docs. Now, we always go out to lunch to a fun place. The kids get to miss a little extra school and it's like a special date with Mom.
 
Things have changed since those early years. My kids are old enough now that I schedule separate appointments for them so that they have privacy and get the undivided attention of the staff. And now we all have our "personal toys" to keep us entertained. It's so much more relaxing. But in an odd, sort of crazy way, I do miss those early years and the excitement shining in my kids' eyes as we were heading off to the zoo. Of course, that was after they peeled me off the walls. Ahhh, memories....
 

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Lisa C. Greene is the mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, a certified parent coach, parenting educator, and public speaker. She is also the co-author with Foster Cline, MD of the award-winning Love and Logic® book “Parenting Children with Health Issues.”   For more information, visit www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com

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