Make the Most Out of Your Child’s Appointments

Learn how to work with your child and your child’s doctor for the best treatment possible.

By Linda J. Brown

When it comes to treating juvenile arthirits, you, your child and your child's doctor should all agree on the treatment plan. Effective communication and working together as a team can help make that happen. Learn how to make the most out of your child's doctor's appointments so you can get the best care for your child.

Bring Labs and Results from Other Appointments

Make sure your child's doctor has all the information they need to successfully treat your child, such as lab test results and X-rays from other doctor’s appointments. If your child is a new patient, check to see if the new doctor's office has requested them from other doctorw or if you need to bring them to your next appointment.  

Take Notes

Keep a notebook and write down specifics to help you and your child remember everything from the appointment. Studies have shown that 20 to 50% of what is said in the doctor’s office is forgotten. Also, use your notebook to jot down any questions or concerns that occur between visits. 

Involve Your Child

Make sure you or your child lets the doctor know about his or her concerns, too. Depending on your child’s age, he or she may also want a notebook to keep track of new symptoms, medications and dosages, lab results and dietary changes.

Understand Treatment Options

Make sure that you and your doctor help your child understand that there can be flexibility in some medical treatments. If a particular medicine is really bothering your child, there may be a substitute, says Deborah Rothman, MD, director of pediatrics and rheumatology at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Mass. “But if you don’t tell your child's doctor of the problem, he or she won’t be able to help,” she says.

Negotiate When Needed

Don’t hesitate to negotiate with the doctor for something your child really wants to do. For example, if your child has arthritis but really wants to take dance classes, ask your doctor to explain the restrictions and then relay them to your child’s dance instructors. Likewise, you’ll need to encourage your child to follow the doctor’s advice and teach your child to watch for signs of a flare. 

Let Your Child Speak Up

Encourage your child to voice opinions and concerns early, so it becomes natural as he or she gets older. As a parent, you provide essential information about your child’s health, but the dialogue between child and physician is also important. “I have found that even very young children, 5, 6, and 7, can tell me what’s bothering them,” says Dr. Rothman. “It’s really important for them to start talking directly to me because even their parents are sometimes surprised by what they say.”

Improving Communication with the Doctor

Try these tips if communication isn’t working between you, your child and your child's doctor:  

  • Bring a list of questions to your child’s appointment and prioritize your biggest concerns at the top. That way, if your doctor doesn’t have time to answer all of them, you will at least get answers to your top questions. 
  • For any other questions or lab results, ask your doctor if email is an option. 
  • Be confident enough to ask for further explanation if you don’t understand or agree with something. 
  • Encourage your kid to ask questions too, because no matter how small he or she thinks the question is, it will make a difference.
  • If something isn’t working, let your child’s doctor know and bring suggestions for improving the situation. Because pediatric rheumatologists are in short supply, it’s best to try to find solutions and common ground before switching. 

You, your child's doctor and your child are a team, which requires communication, compromise and negotiation. And when the team goal is the healthiest and fullest life possible for your child, that's certainly worthy of taking the time to learn how to make it work for everyone.

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