Teachable Moments at the Doctors Office

The way you handle a visit to the doctor’s office makes a big impression on your child.  Look for the following teachable moments and use these helpful tips:

Before you go –
Let your child help make a special doctor’s kit and take it along when you go to the pediatrician.   Any bag or backpack will do – it’s what you put inside that counts: Choose read aloud books, bright coloring pads and new crayons or washable markers, stickers and small, quiet toys and a cuddly bear to hug.  Use this bag only for doctor visits, and it gives your child something to comfort him.

On the way –
As you drive to your child’s appointment, talk about how doctor’s and nurses help us when we are sick or injured.  They go to school for a long time to study and learn about all kinds of sickness and how to use medicines to chase away the bad germs.  If your child has an injury, talk about X-rays or whatever tests you’ll be facing.

In the waiting room –
Greet the office staff and other patients with courtesy.  This teaches your child that even in a less-than-desirable situation, good manners still count.  Look at books or magazines together and point out colors, animals, letters of the alphabet, etc.  

Observe other children in the waiting room.  Are they behaving nicely and using good manners?  If so, use them as a good example for your child.  If not, quietly talk with your child about what he or she thinks the child should be doing differently.  When you see a sick child coughing on toys and books that belong to the doctor’s office, remind your child why it’s important to cover his mouth when coughing.

In the examining room:
Once you are inside the examining room, look for charts of the skeletal or respiratory system, etc.  These are excellent teaching tools and help fill the time while you wait to see the doctor.  Point out different parts of the body – the lungs, heart or other organs and different bones while helping your child learns the proper names.

There are often plastic models of the eye or ear, too.  Explain that they are much bigger than the ones inside the body and talk about their parts.  Once the doctor arrives, ask a question or two about the chart or model.  This helps your child see that his doctor is also his “teacher.”

Most pediatricians talk to children as they exam them and explain what they are doing each step of the way.  This eases anxiety and is a learning experience, too.  When nurses administer medications or shots, try not to overreact or reinforce your child’s fears.  Use a soothing voice and remind him that the medicine has to be strong enough to fight the bad germs so he can stop being sick.

There are many teachable moments about a visit to your child’s doctor.  They occur before you go, on the way, and in the waiting and examining rooms.  Use these opportunities to help your preschooler learn important life lessons.