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 treating a child with arthritis, effective communication and a team approach are the ideal for any doctor-patient-parent relationship. The goal is improving the child’s health, and everyone has a role to play. The aim is for the child, parent and doctor to be on the same page with the treatment plan. Find out how to make the most out of your doctor visits.

Bring Labs and Results from Other Appointments

Make sure your 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 you’re a new patient, check to see if your child’s doctor’s office has requested them from other docs, or if you need to bring them with you to your next appointment.  

Take Notes 

Write down specifics in a notebook to help you and your child remember everything from the appointment. Studies have shown that 20 to 50 percent 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 concerns, too. Depending on your child’s age, he can also have a notebook or a color-coded chart that shows the medications and amounts he takes each day, his 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 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, if your child has lupus but wants to play soccer, you’ll need to help her follow the doctor’s advice and watch for signs of a flare. 

Let Your Child Speak Up

Start helping your child to voice his opinions and concerns early, so he can do it when he gets older. And while parents provide essential information about their child’s health, a dialogue between child and physician, geared to the child’s age, is also vital. “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 her 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 emailing them 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 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 as you might in any negotiation. Because pediatric rheumatologists are in short supply, it’s best to try to find solutions and common ground before switching. 

Consider yourself, the doctor and your child a team. Being on a team 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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