Most parents diligently schedule yearly well child visits, but the findings of a recent poll suggest that when they show up, they are not making the most of this valuable face time with their child’s healthcare provider.

Only 25 percent said they prepare a list of questions to ask the physician or nurse practitioner. And just 21 percent write down any changes in their child’s health or behavior in preparation for seeing a pediatrician. Forty percent of parents reported needing to address their child’s fears about a visit to a healthcare provider.

Parents may not realize the importance of preparing for a well-child visit, Sarah Clark, corresponding author on the report, told TheDoctor. “They may feel they take their child to the provider to get an expert opinion, and their input is unwanted or unnecessary,” she said.

Parents should never promise children they will not be getting a shot.

Clark points out that it has become more widely known that good healthcare relies on engagement from patients and their families. But that idea may not have trickled down to everyone knowing they need to be an active participant. “I hope that parents read this and realize it makes sense,” she explained.

The report, part of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, was based on responses of more than 1,300 parents with at least one child one to 18 years old to a nationwide poll done in late 2022.

What Parents Can Do
Clark recommends parents keep a running list of questions they may have for the healthcare provider. These questions should be written down in the same order as they come up. Parents should also be ready to share any input from the child’s daycare providers or teacher with the doctor or nurse, to see if further evaluation by another practitioner is needed.

Young children are often afraid of going to the doctor. Parents can prepare younger children for the visit by role-playing with a toy medical kit or reading them a children’s book about going to the doctor. The University of Michigan offers these tips for easing children’s anxiety about provider visits.

Parents could use distractions like cartoons during the procedure or promise a fun outing afterward, such as going for ice cream, if a younger child requires a blood draw or vaccine. They should never promise children they will not be getting a shot, advised Clark, a research scientist and co-director of the C.S. Mott poll.

Older kids are different. Only a little more than 20 percent of parents said they ask their older child to make a list of questions to ask the provider, but older kids can come up with a list of questions to ask the doctor themselves. Caregivers of teens should also be ready to back off, letting them have some time alone with the doctor to ask sensitive questions.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is part of the University of Michigan Health System. The C.S. Mott National Poll on Children’s Health is published monthly and covers a variety of topics related to children’s health and well-being.