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Top Five Questions Parents Should Ask Pediatricians
1. Is my child growing well?
Normal growth is a great indicator of overall health. Measurements for your child’s height, weight and head circumference for children two years and younger, are recorded during all well-child appointments. In the first two years of their life, your child’s brain and skull are growing rapidly. Your doctor will continue to monitor their height and weight as they grow. Unexpected increases, losses or just slow growth can be the first indicator of an underlying health problem.
Some potential causes of abnormal growth include a nutritional deficiency, hormone issue or even a mental health problem, such as depression or an eating disorder. By checking children’s height and weight annually, pediatricians have a better chance to make an early evaluation for any underlying causes of abnormal development.
2. How can I keep my child safe in the car?
Injury while riding in a car is one of the top reasons children visit the emergency room. One of the most effective ways that parents can keep their children safe is to have them properly restrained while riding in a car.
A few car seat safety tips:
- Children from newborn to 2 years old should ride in a rear-facing car seat.
- After 2 years of age, children should ride in forward-facing seats with the harnesses and straps positioned snugly to ensure a safe fit in case of impact.
- Children need to be in a car seat or a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Keeping children in car seats or boosters until this height ensures that the chest strap and belt straps are in a safe place on the child’s chest and hips — not across their neck or abdomen.
- Always follow the weight and height guidelines provided by the car seat manufacturer.
Transitioning to the front seat:
- Children should not ride in the front seat until the age of 13. One of the reasons is that the front airbags can be dangerous to younger passengers.
Discuss ways your tween or teen can be a safe driver before they even start driving and set an example by doing the same, including:
- Wear a seat belt every time you are in the car.
- Avoid engaging with distractions like a cell phone or the radio.
- Discuss the risks of driving while under the influence of any substance.
3. Is it true?
After we have children, many well-meaning people in our lives tend to give parents advice. As parents, we will also read advice on the internet or in social media groups. Some of that advice is correct and some of it is incorrect. What I want parents to know is that they can always fact-check the information they have read, heard or seen during their appointment. Your child’s pediatrician has likely heard what you are about to ask and will know how to advise you with the proper expertise.
4. Do you need to talk to my teenager privately?
I recommend asking this question for two reasons.
Number one, being able to speak with their pediatrician directly provides teenagers with the opportunity to practice self-management. As adolescents mature, it is healthy for them to learn how to navigate conversations about their health, which is, of course, a necessary skill to have in adulthood.
Secondly, the doctor’s office can offer a more relaxed environment for teenagers to raise important questions about this stage of their life. A direct conversation can often lead to additional insights which will enable your pediatrician to provide more informed feedback. Your pediatrician can also often help to facilitate conversations between you and your teenager that they may view as uncomfortable.
5. How can I support my child in their academic or intellectual development?
I like this question because it reminds both the parent and the child that childhood is an important time for the growth of both the body and mind and it changes greatly as they grow up.
In the early years, one of the best things you can do is to talk to your baby. The number of words a child hears spoken in their home by a family member as an infant and toddler increases their speech development.
Babies and toddlers do not need fancy toys or screens, even if they are educational. You can also promote your young child’s development through play with simple objects such as boxes, blocks, pots, pans and your own interactions. Try to read to your child every single day. Reading only 20 minutes each day does wonders for their social and intellectual growth.
As your child enters school, ensure they have breakfast daily. Children need nutritious food in the morning so that they are physically satisfied and ready to learn for the day. Many of us cannot concentrate well while our stomachs are growling and our children are the same.
Connect with your child’s teachers. If they are having any academic or behavioral difficulties, advocate for your child to receive the help they need to be successful. Do not be afraid to share these difficulties with your pediatrician, who may be able to help.
Finally, make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Sleep times range depending on the age of the child and the family’s schedule, but no child should sleep less than eight hours on a regular basis. Much like a hungry child, a tired child will not be able to focus on his or her academics.