Have A Great Relationship With Your Doctor

Helping Your Child Prepare For Their First Physical Exam

by Terry Wilson

Even children who see a pediatrician for regular check-ups might feel nervous about their first physical exam. This exam is usually requested before children can participate in competitive sports at the junior high or high school. If your son or daughter isn't interested in sports, a physical exam at this age is still recommended. As a parent, you can help your child prepare for this examination.

Explain What is Different About the Physical Exam

While the physical exam has similar components as a check-up, it is a longer, more in-depth appointment. Help your child anticipate the differences by explaining what to expect. Aspects of the physical exam include:

  • Basic Check-Up: Your teen's heart rate, temperature and blood pressure will be taken. Ears and throat are visually examined and the doctor will also ask about overall health and lifestyle. Your child has likely encountered these things at other check-ups and should feel comfortable with the procedures.
  • In-Depth Questions: The second part of the exam might be unfamiliar to your child. The physician will ask more thorough questions about health and habits – not just how your child has been feeling and whether or not they exercise. These questions range from developing smoking habits to changes in the physical body and possible sexual activity. If this is a sports physical, questions about previous injuries will also be asked and specific areas examined to determine if there is lasting damage.
  • Actual Examination: Lastly, your child faces the "physical" part of the exam. It is likely they will be required to change into a hospital gown so the doctor can perform the actual examination. Checking the reflexes tends to be amusing (involuntarily kicking when the doctor taps the knee, for example) but abdominal and pelvic exams can be intimidating. Simply explain that the doctor is looking for warning signs of liver problems, cancer, and other health concerns.

Prepare Your Child for Personal Questions

The first physical tends to occur when adolescents are going through puberty and experiencing a lot of changes in their bodies. Some of the questions your child's pediatrician will ask are about these specific changes and your child might not know how to answer them or might feel uncomfortable discussing them with another person. Here are some ways you can help ease your child's concerns:

  • Provide Possible Questions in Advance: Give your child a list of sample questions to review so that they aren't surprised by the information requested. For females, questions about her first menstrual cycle and regularity of periods might be asked. Family history of breast cancer is used to determine if a breast exam is necessary at this age. For males, questions about family history of genitalia/hernia problems are asked and concerns about testicular changes (lumps or tenderness) are also reviewed. These questions help determine if a genital exam is necessary or not. Let your child look over these questions and answer them alone.
  • Offer to Discuss Answers to the Questions: After your child has reviewed the questions on the list, offer to go over them with him or her. See if they have any questions about how to answer them, but don't pressure. Some kids would prefer to discuss this with a doctor only, while others will need to practice with a parent.
  • Explain Why a Physician Needs this Information: Some of the embarrassment of intimate questions can be lessened when your child understands what the information is used for – it helps the physician create a comprehensive health history for your child, and helps determine if physically examining the private parts is necessary (more and more, it is avoided in adolescents). The questions are also focused on disease prevention and early detection.
  • Remind Your Child of Other Aspects of the Visit: While many adolescents feel justifiably uncomfortable with this aspect of a physical examination, it may ease their concerns to know that this is a short part of the exam. At this age, the physician is more concerned about cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health (especially for sports players). Physicians are professional and brief when discussing and examining the more intimate parts of their patients.

The first in-depth physical your child goes through will be different than their annual check-ups. However, if you help them prepare, you can minimize their embarrassment and it can be a positive experience that helps them understand their body's changes and needs better.

For more information, consider a site like http://www.EntiraFamilyClinics.com.