Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Siblings and Doctor Visits

Depending on the level of issues/needs that your preemie has, you may end up going to a lot of doctor's appointments. If you have other children who are not in school or with a babysitter, that can usually mean that they are dragged along as well. In my case, I have to take our son to most of my daughter's appointments. Here are some things I have learned to make it easier on everyone.

1) Entertainment - when you pack the diaper bag, be sure to pack things for your other kid(s) too. Books, coloring books, small toys, stickers - whatever will keep them entertained and at least marginally quiet for awhile. For my son I always carry around a few cars, this race track, a small pad of paper, some crayons and one toy of his choice. This ensures that he has several options to keep him occupied.

2) Snacks - little ones (and big ones) get hungry. And they often get hungry at the exact moment that your doctor is outlining a new plan of care for your preemie. I always bring an assortment of fruit snacks or other non-perishable items that can be quickly handed over to my son during those moments.

3) Set expectations - let your kids know where you are going and what is going to happen. They need to know what it means to "be good" during the appointment - stay quiet, let mommy/daddy talk to the doctor without interruptions, etc. For our son he knows that going to PT means he gets to play without taking toys from his sister, the pediatrician means he gets to see the trains when we are done, etc. Setting a routine helps to make the trips a lot easier.

4) Rewards - try and find small rewards that can be given to siblings who have to tag along. Many doctor's offices now have train sets or fish tanks to look at - let your kids look at the trains/fish tank before and after the appointment. Spending a couple of extra minutes after an appointment letting them look at the trains can go a long way towards making them feel better about going somewhere they don't want to go. A lot of doctors have stickers and/or lollipops. My son always gets to choose one of each (and our pediatrician is great about handing him the box of stickers so he can stay occupied for several minutes picking one out).

5) Come prepared - if you know the doctor is going to need some specific information, try and have it ready before you get to the appointment. It makes it much easier to balance your kids and listen to the doctor if you aren't also looking for paperwork, etc.

With a little extra planning, bring a sibling to a doctor's appointment can be far less painful and distracting.

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