(This article is the 2nd in a series following the article, “Getting Ready for School: The Pre-Kindergarten Medical Check-Up
Since the pre-kindergarten medical check-up and immunizations are required for admission to kindergarten, this is one of the “rites of passage” for young children. Your child may have even heard about it through the preschool grapevine or from an older sibling or friend. Take the time to prepare your child and yourself for the pre-kindergarten medical visit to help make it a success.
1. Schedule the appointment early
Make an appointment for your child’s medical visit during the summer before kindergarten. If possible, schedule the visit early in the summer since medical offices get very busy in August. Try to schedule the appointment for a time when you and your child are likely to be the most patient—it’s easier to complete the medical visit early in the morning or on a day with fewer activities rather than at the end of a long, exhausting day at camp and work.
2. Prepare your child for the medical visit:
- Start talking with your child about the check-up a couple days in advance. Explain that the doctor will make sure he’s healthy and ready to start kindergarten. Encourage your child to have a positive attitude toward the visit by talking about how nice the doctor is.
- Be honest about what will happen at the check-up. Let your child know that the doctor will want to talk with her about going to school, her friends, and the activities she enjoys. Emphasize the “fun” parts of the check-up—drawing, playing some games with the doctor, and getting a sticker afterwards. But also be honest about the shots. Explain that all children and adults have to get shots to stay healthy. You can tell them that he got them when he was a baby. You might even list some of the older children he knows who got the kindergarten shots, “Jason got them, Emily got them…” Explain that the shot is a little needle in his arm and he’ll feel a pinch, but it’ll be over quickly. Let him know that it’s okay to cry if he needs to. Show him how it can help to pretend your finger is a birthday candle and to blow it out during the shot.
- Consider reading together a children’s book about going to the doctor. You can ask the librarian at your local library for suggestions.
- Consider getting a children’s doctor’s kit. Your child can prepare for the medical visit by using the stethoscope and giving a shot to her stuffed animals and you. Talk through the exam with your child, “Teddy Bear is asking, ’What are you listening for?’ ’What will the shot will feel like?’
- Plan to do something special together after the check-up. Discuss with your child how she would like to celebrate being ready for kindergarten. It might involve going to the park or for a swim, seeing a movie together, getting a new book or toy, or getting an ice cream cone.
3. Prepare yourself in advance.
Do you have any questions about your child’s development or behavior, readiness for school, health problems, medications, or family problems? Write down your questions as you think of them, and take them to the visit. If medical issues make you nervous or language is a problem, take a family member or friend to help you. If you need a translator, ask the medical office in advance.
4. On the day of the medical visit
- Take everything you need. Be sure to take the school health forms, your child’s immunization card, and your list of questions. Also pack a book, toy and snack for your child in case there is a wait at the office.
- Try to stay relaxed and upbeat. This is important to calm any anxiety that you child might have. Be sure to give your child lots of hugs and encouragement.
- Talk your child through the medical visit. If your child appears nervous, stay close by. You can remind him how you prepared together, “Remember we read in the book about the stethoscope? What do you think the doctor is listening for in your chest?”
- Be sure to leave with everything you need. Make sure you have the completed health forms and immunization card. If your child has special developmental or medical needs, make sure you have any referrals, prescriptions, Care Plans, and follow-up appointments that your child may need. If your child has any routine or emergency medications, ask the doctor for prescriptions for the medication and any necessary equipment for both home and school.
Finish the day with your special celebration now that your big boy/girl is ready for kindergarten.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.