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Is it OK to skip your child’s checkup if they’re healthy?

The first few years of your child’s life are a major factor in their lifelong growth and development, which is why we recommend all well checkups for your child even if they’re healthy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, your CHOC pediatrician’s office is a safe, socially distant environment to keep your child and family safe while still delivering high quality preventive care.

These checkups, also known as well child checks, are an opportunity to track your child’s development, make sure they’re getting the care they need to stay healthy, and for parents to get answers to any parenting questions.

Under the current stay at home orders, it may be tempting to skip something called a “well child check” if your child is feeling healthy. Here are six reasons why it’s not OK to skip your child’s checkup, even if they’re feeling healthy.

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Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician

#1 Developmental screening

At every well checkup your pediatrician will be making sure that your child is meeting her or his developmental milestones, whether they are 4 months, 4 years, or 14 years old. For babies and toddlers, these milestones come rapidly as children’s brains are learning many new skills every day, from crawling to walking, and from first words to conversations. It is important to make sure your child is acquiring these necessary skills for brain development every step of the way. For older kids and teens, these milestones become less apparent, but are just as important, and are often reflected in a child’s ability to handle academics, relationship, and emotions. Your pediatrician is here to help at every stage of your child’s development.

#2 Relationship building

It’s important for your child to develop a rapport with their pediatrician. We are positive role models for young kids and help lessen their fear of going to the doctor. When your child is a teenager, parents are often asked to leave the exam room so the pediatrician can speak to the teen in private. Your child will feel more comfortable asking personal questions about their body and puberty later in life if their pediatrician has been a constant figure and steady resource since childhood.

#3 Mental health check up

Well checks also serve as a mental and behavioral health check-in. Your pediatrician can help evaluate your child’s mental health and wellbeing over time.

During well child checks amid the pandemic, mental health has been a bigger part of conversations during appointments than ever before. This is a chance for pediatricians to check on how the whole family is coping with stress related to COVID-19. They can share advice for how to talk to kids about COVID-19 and help them cope with COVID-19 anxiety as well as how to teach teens the importance of stay at home orders.

You can also talk to your pediatrician about how your child is coping with social distancing, or a lack of playdates and time with friends. They can offer advice on how to make this a positive time for your family.

#4 Enforcing healthy habits

Well child checks are a great opportunity to reinforce healthy habits. Often, kids will listen to their pediatrician more than their parents. We can remind children about the importance of eating healthy, doing their homework, brushing their teeth, wearing helmets—and listening to their parents!

Do you ever struggle with the question, “How much screen time is too much?” or find yourself battling your children over screen time limits? Your pediatrician can be a resource for you in helping reinforce screen time limits with your child. We can help explain to your children why their bodies need less screen time and more play, and how too much screen time affects their body and brain.

With children spending more time at home than ever, your pediatrician can be a resource on activity ideas for kids during COVID-19.

#5 Getting answers to questions you didn’t know you had

During many appointments in my office, my conversation with parents takes a turn from why they originally came in to see me. They might have an appointment to get a rash checked out, but then I’ll notice a mole on the child I hadn’t seen before, and they’ll realize they too were wondering about that, but just forgot to ask.

Pediatricians are resources for parents just as much as we are caretakers of your children. We’re here to help you get answers to your questions on acne, headaches, academic concerns and anything in between.

#6 A fresh perspective on parenting

Pediatricians specialize in taking care of infants, children and teens – but they can be there for you as a parent, as well.

Right now, parents have been asked to take on more than ever – working from home, overseeing their child’s distance learning curriculum, keeping kids entertained and engaged around-the clock, and more – and they are understandably overwhelmed.

Having a fresh set of eyes on a family’s situation may help troubleshoot what they are trying to figure out. Many of my patients’ parents are struggling with a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Their child’s pediatrician is someone they trust and respect, and I validate that they are doing their best.

Parents should congratulate and forgive themselves. At the end of the day they may be hard on themselves and wish they had done more, and that feeling compounds by the end of the week or month. What parents are juggling right now is Herculean. I applaud each and every one of you.

This article was updated on May 18, 2020.

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One thought on “Is it OK to skip your child’s checkup if they’re healthy?”

  1. My daughter has a check-up soon and I was about to push it off further because she seems happy and healthy. It’s good to know that although she is healthy it’s still a good idea to take her in so that the doctor can evaluate her mental state. I want my kids to stay happy and healthy all the time so I will certainly take her to that visit.

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