When you’re lucky to have a healthy child, scheduling a doctor’s appointment is probably the last thing on your mind. Between school, extracurriculars, and playdates, the calendar fills up pretty quickly. But scheduling routine check-ups with your child’s primary care provider (PCP) is one way to be proactive in preventing and detecting abuse.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends yearly well child visits for children ages 3 years through 21 years. Yes, even if they’re healthy. And frankly, especially if they’re healthy! If they aren’t being seen for sick visits or injuries, some children might otherwise go years without seeing their PCP. So why is this so important?
- PCPs monitor your child’s growth and development. When you live with your child day in and day out, it can be difficult to notice gradual changes or plateaus. With annual check-ups, PCPs get a broader view of your child’s maturation and can identify notable patterns or shifts. Subtleties in growth and development are often the earliest clues in identifying underlying problems ranging from genetic disorders to toxic environmental stress.
- During a check-up, any PCP worth their salt will check the health and safety of your child’s body through a physical exam. The exam presents an opportunity for you and the PCP to reiterate body boundaries such as, “only doctors and parents should look at your private parts to assist with things like bathing or help with injuries when appropriate.” The PCP can then review what the child should do if someone other than a doctor or parent touches the child’s private parts and ask if that has ever happened before.
- In contrast to appointments for illness or injuries, well child checks have built in time to screen for and discuss behavior, mood, and learning problems. PCPs have expertise in distinguishing what is typical at various ages from what needs further assessment.
- And finally, the importance of supporting a relationship between a child and their PCP cannot be overstated. No one wants to think about their darling cherub growing up into a sexually active, substance-curious adolescent, but it does happen. If your child has an established connection with a PCP, they are more likely to receive scientifically accurate information about topics you may have difficulty broaching. And, if the unthinkable happens and your child does experience abuse, having a PCP they trust and can turn to may facilitate the abuse coming to light.
We know having trusted adults in a child’s life is a huge part of resilience. Who better than a professional committed to prioritizing your child’s health?
Click here to learn more about the benefits of establishing a connection with a PCP and medical home.