Kids at Appointments

This actually came up for discussion in more than one place recently. Taking siblings to the medical needs child’s appointments.

There’s the pro camp that says that siblings learn compassion, learn more about their sibling’s condition in preparation for later life when they will be in charge. That siblings have an opportunity to develop patience and that the whole family has more of an opportunity to develop their relationships and grow closer.

There’s the “con” camp: siblings have virtually nothing to offer at doctor’s appointments, their presence squashes honest conversation with doctors, the parent has to balance too many peoples’ needs, and it’s just plain inconvenient. Not to mention boring for the siblings.

Me? I think the “pro” people either live in a fantasy world, or have children who are much older than my own.

I have taken the older kids to Teddy’s appointments. When he was getting infusions, I brought them along a few times. It was an IV start and then a few hours of watching videos. Combined with the difficulty of how to take one child to the bathroom while the clingy infant was essentially stuck in the infusion room.

I’ve brought them to a FEW appointments with actual doctor visits (specialists). When I had no other choice.

I’ve brought them to ALL of his appointments with our pediatrician, and all of our local lab appointments.

I prefer leaving them with someone else. Here’s why: it’s just boring. If you didn’t have to be at a doctor’s appointment, would you be? No! They’re kids! They should not be stuck inside a doctor’s office (picking up germs), not to mention the 4 hours in the car for IC appointments. I’ve learned, particularly, that expecting a 3 or 4 year old to have anything resembling good behavior at a boring doctor’s office after a 2 hour car ride is unreasonable. If I had another adult with me, it would be more doable, but I don’t.

I additionally feel that their presence, at least at some appointments, prevents full and honest conversation with the doctors. We try to make sure the other kids understand the seriousness of Teddy’s condition without scaring them. *We* have had times we were worried for his life, but there’s no reason for the kids to know this. They will just worry. And they have so much stress as it is. So I’m not likely to ask some of the harder questions when I have four little ears in the room, listening to everything that’s being said.

I’ll also admit that I find it hard on *me* to have them along. Instead of being able to focus on Teddy and keeping him happy, I have to spread my attention among three kids. One of whom has some insecurity about her place in the world and uses attention-seeking behaviors to get reassurance. In the middle of a difficult needle stick, she needs to pee really bad. While I’m calming Teddy down, she picks a fight with her older brother. Sigh.

Lastly, I do not feel that attending his appointments provides any real benefit to anybody. We don’t feel particularly close as a family in the clinic. We’re not developing our relationships in any meaningful way. And the kids are *not* learning anything – compassion or tips on how to help care for him as they grow. They’re 9 and 4, ok? They’re not learning more about kidney disease or transplant issues or growth concerns, partly because they aren’t familiar with half of the words that get thrown around – and they don’t NEED to know them.

If I leave them home, they have a full day of playing and being KIDS. If I bring them along to Iowa City, they have a full day of sitting in the car, sitting at the clinic, eating lunch, and sitting in the car again. Not fun. 😦


I don’t mind bringing them to get labs. Genna always asks if they’re going to hurt Teddy and she gets very growly at this and then asks if she can help him feel better. And she almost always does try. That’s super sweet. And it’s also what she does at home for shots or if she happens to be in the room when I’m doing blood pressures. Wally, too. They both love to help him feel better. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Kids at Appointments

  1. I should note that there is of course the possibility that people who love bringing siblings with them have appointments that differ greatly from our own. Both places where this discussion was taking place were generalized special needs message boards/groups, and I do not know the nature of the individual commentors’ particular special needs.

  2. I agree totally. For us it doesn’t make sense to take a 4 and 5 year old to big visits, but I do take them for local appt. B/C I have no other choice. They are kids and dealing w/added stress is not necessary. You’re an awesome mom and advocate!

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