I brought all three kids with me--there weren't many volunteers offering to watch them for me. Over the years, I had my share of doctor visits, and most of them were not routine. The only upside to all of this is that I come prepared now. Oh, and my kids know exactly what to expect.
So here are my steps to a sane visit:
- Inform the kids the night before about the visit. First of all, they need to know what to expect. Second, it will be less scary if they know it is not an emergency. It also allows for them to assimilate the information and ask any questions. Tell them what kind of doctor visit is planned, if it's routine, and if there is blood or shot.
- if you have any specific questions to ask the doctor, write them down! Chances are, even if you mulled them over while driving, nothing distracts you like trying to keep your kids quiet.
- bring non-crumbly snacks: cheese sticks, apple slices. Even if you just fed them breakfast or lunch, you might be waiting for a while, and nothing brings on the munchies like waiting around for an unknown amount of time
- bring books to browse/read/color. Some offices will ave kids' books and toys, others won't. I try to pick practitioners who welcome or tolerate kids, especially if you will have to come back often.
- bring snack cups for toddlers, and an umbrella stroller. This way, you can strap your kid in as you are getting examined or having blood drawn. Cheerios from snack cups tend to make a mess, so reserve them just for the time that the doctor is in the room.
- explain what is going on. Point out the scale, tell how the blood pressure cuff squeezes but does not hurt, talk about anatomical models (if it's not obstetrics, chances are it's a model of an ear or a nose), show the cool features of the exam table
- make a "chicken": take an exam glove ( most exam rooms have boxes and boxes of the,. blow it up and tie at the wrist. The thumb becomes the beak and the fingers are the comb. Hand it over and some time will pass in play
- bring a pen with you, and doodle on the exam table paper. Let the kids take turns drawing or writing.
- when the kids are older, let them choose whether to come with you to the exam room or to stay in the waiting area. This only works if you know that your kids will not leave and know where to find you. Ask office staff if they are OK with this.
- also, teach your kids about privacy. I expected my boys to stay outside while I am getting undressed/dressed and for any internal exams. Luckily, 2 yo seems to follow their lead and wait with her brothers.
- reward good behavior with a mint at the end of the visit. This meant that my kids got candy, twice, before 10 am, but this also means that my sanity was preserved.
While all of these have the potential to make a visit bearable, if you can have someone watch the kids while you go, take that offer!