Your Knee Bone's Connected to Your Shin Bone

Baby Holding StethoscopeWe all go to the doctor at times. With four young children, my family tends to be there often. Finding a sitter or having my husband come home from work every time is not a reasonable option for our family. So, when one of us has an appointment, I pack up all the kids in the van, and off we go.   

Doctors appointments are typically filled with a lot of time waiting, so I figure why waste all that time.  I typically have my children pack their backpacks with their schoolwork and supplies before we leave the house. I usually pack a few things in my bag too. 

On the way to the doctor appointment, I usually explain why we are going to the appointment and see if they have any questions. Usually someone asks if they are going to get a shot. I believe in being honest with my children. Sometimes, if the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘I don’t know’ (when I truly don’t know) they will get crabby and be difficult. Thankfully, most of the time the answer is ‘no’ and then they relax because they know that they can trust me. Obviously God tells us in Exodus 20 not to give false testimony, I believe it is very important for us to not only obey His commands, but to also model this behavior to our children.

Once we are in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I usually have my oldest son start on his schoolwork while I fill out forms. I have him bring something that he can work on mostly independently.  The other children play. Then when I’m done with the forms, if there is still time I usually read to my children since I am available and they can have my full attention.

If there are any triage procedures when we get called back, I like to name the instruments that the children haven’t seen before or test them to see if they can remember what they are called and what they do like ‘sphygmomanometer’ is for checking blood pressure.  If there is something I’m not familiar with, I just ask the nurse.  Sometimes the nurses will even explain or show extra things to my boys like that there are different size sphygmomanometer cuffs for different sizes of arms.

Skeleton Illustration

Once we are in the exam room and the nurse leaves, I look around at the walls and tables (I don’t snoop in the drawers) to see what educational opportunities are available to us. Usually there are posters or models. These are opportunities that I don’t have available in my home, so I like to take advantage of this time to teach biology and health. I like to discuss anatomy with my boys from the posters or models and relate it to their own bodies. “See the spinal bones on this model. Now feel your back here. Those bumps are your spinal bones.”  or “This muscle is the bicep muscle.  Can you find your biceps?  What happens when you flex your biceps?”

If I have exhausted all of the learning opportunities in the room (or if my children really aren’t interested that day) then I have them work on their schoolwork that they brought with in their backpacks or I read to them.  For my younger children I often bring crayons and let them draw on the paper on the exam table.  They love this!  It usually keeps them busy for a long time and my older children try to finish their work quickly so they can draw on the exam table paper as well.

I usually pack and have ready a special snack so when the doctor comes into the exam room, the kids can have snack time. This gives them something to look forward to and it helps them stay quiet while the doctor is talking to me. They are also more likely to listen and learn something from what the doctor is saying. I try to teach them to be polite and not interrupt the doctor or me and to save their questions till later. Obviously this takes a lot of practice and is still a work in progress, but my efforts do seem to be paying off. I also like to use this time to have them practice being kind to their sibling that my not be feeling well or has to have an uncomfortable procedure or test. I want them to show love to their siblings and offer to help each other. I think doctor appointments are a great time to practice this.

One more thing I like to do at the clinic is talk about the different employees that we see at the clinic, what their jobs are, and how they work together as a health care team. Also, that they are real people too and sometimes they get sick like us, that’s why we had to reschedule our appointment recently.   

On the way home, I like to discuss things the Doctor talked about, and make sure that my boys didn’t misunderstand what the saw or heard.   

I like to make the best of my opportunities, and though real world experiences may not always be convenient, they can certainly be educational for my children. 

What are your tips for going to the Doctor with kids in tow?

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