How to advocate for your child — and yourself — with your pediatrician

Dr. Mona Amin is an In The Know parenting contributor. Follow her on Instagram for more.

Do you like your child’s doctor? No, really. Do you like them? Do you value their opinion, their advice and feel as if they listen to what you have to say?

In this modern healthcare system, I know a few things to be true:

  • We sometimes don’t have a lot of time with our doctors.
  • We sometimes can’t see the same doctor every time due to scheduling issues.
  • We sometimes can feel as if our concerns are rushed or not heard at all.

This can lead to frustration, especially as we start our parenting journey and prioritize our child’s health and wellness. 

My hope is that you always try to find a pediatrician that you can connect with. You might not agree on every single thing, but ideally, this pediatrician should have a similar parenting philosophy as you and have an approach to your child’s health that makes you feel comfortable.

What you should consider when it comes to finding and keeping a pediatrician

Here are some questions to think about when considering — or reconsidering — a pediatrician:

  • What is their stance on vaccines?
  • Do they seem quick to prescribe antibiotics?
  • Do they take your concerns seriously and explain things to you in a way that is easy to understand?
  • Do they explain the plan for your child so you are clear?
  • Do they explain when to follow up or return?  
  • Do they explain why they’re not concerned and what would concern them? 

As a pediatrician and mom, I have been on both sides. My son had a medical issue from birth, and I advocated for him in the NICU. One of the most important things we can do as parents is advocate for ourselves and our children. And one of the most important things your medical team can do is listen. 

What to do when your concerns aren’t being heard

But what happens if you don’t feel that your concerns are being heard? What happens if you think something is wrong with your child, and you’re being dismissed?

First, trust your gut. Even if your gut ends up being wrong, it’s important to seek medical attention for your child if you think something isn’t right.

When you take your child to the doctor or to a hospital and they seem dismissive of your concerns, consider asking the following questions:

  • What about my child’s situation doesn’t concern you?
  • Are there any red flags I should watch out for?
  • When should I come back to the hospital or to see you? 
  • Are there any labs or imaging that’s needed right now? When would we need those?

These questions can provide you with some things to monitor when you go home. They’ll also give you a clearer plan for the next steps with your child.

How to ask for a second opinion

Another option is asking or searching for a second opinion. Say you’re concerned about an issue with your child, but your primary doctor is not concerned. You meet with them, but something doesn’t feel right. You have every right to take your child to another doctor in the practice and/or see a specialist.

But how can you nicely respect the doctor and still inquire about a referral if your insurance requires one?

Here’s a sample phrase: “Doctor, thank you so much for your time. I really value you and appreciate all you do. Is it possible for me to see a specialist to have an extra pair of eyes evaluate my child? It would help ME so much knowing I got the opinion of someone else you trust as well. Something isn’t sitting right with me, and it would ease my mind.” 

My hope is that the doctor is open to a discussion with you about your concerns and places a referral, or, at the very least, comes up with a plan about when to follow up or when a referral, labs or imaging would be necessary. 

When it comes to our children’s health and wellness, it’s all about teamwork. If you don’t feel as if you’re being heard by your child’s doctor, set up a visit with another doctor in the practice, or find another practice (if possible). The goal is for you to feel comfortable with the personality and practice style of your pediatrician.  

Remember that it’s important to get your education from reputable sources and to feel at ease when asking for what you want when it comes to your child’s well-being.

YOU are their biggest advocate. YOU know them best. And my hope is that your child’s doctor believes this, too.

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