Parent Coach: New Feature Tackles Tough Questions

January 1, 2009

Sometimes they come in as phone calls (“Is it OK to breastfeed my baby when I have a cold?”), at other times during “may-I-talk-to-youfor-a-minute” sessions at the end of a scheduled visit (“She’s in kindergarten and still sucking her thumb . . .”). Whatever their mode of delivery, questions from parents take up a significant chunk of a pediatrician’s day.

Sometimes they come in as phone calls (“Is it OK to breastfeed my baby when I have a cold?”), at other times during “may-I-talk-to-youfor-a-minute” sessions at the end of a scheduled visit (“She’s in kindergarten and still sucking her thumb . . .”). Whatever their mode of delivery, questions from parents take up a significant chunk of a pediatrician’s day.

This is as it should be. The collaboration between pediatrician and parent is a special and privileged one. Parenthood is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges and most important endeavors most people undertake in their lifetime. It is also a role for which they receive little direct preparation. All parents inevitably experience doubts, anxieties, and even outright panic. At times like these, they often turn to their child’s pediatrician for advice.

Parents’ questions can-and do-touch on almost every aspect of child rearing. Although pediatricians’ training is in medicine, the questions they are asked frequently go well beyond the health-related. A mother may voice concern about her daughter’s difficulties in making friends at school, a father may want a doctor’s opinion of the new practice regimen a coach has begun for his talented pitcherson-and so on. Older physicians who are themselves seasoned parents may feel they have a store of experience to draw on when faced with such queries. Younger practitioners, however, may feel less than confident in their answers. And even the most experienced pediatricians inevitably come up against the occasional question that they must respond to “flying blind.”

Thus, in addition to taking up a significant amount of a pediatrician’s time, questions from parents can pose some of the greatest challenges in daily practice. This is where we hope our new feature, “Parent Coach,” can help.

In each monthly “Parent Coach” column, series editor Linda S. Nield, MD, or a guest expert will address one of the thornier questions that parents regularly pose to pediatricians. These responses will draw on the latest research as well as clinical experience. Our goal is to present thorough, evidencebased-yet practical-information that clinicians can turn to when advising their patients’ parents. An associate professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University School of Medicine and a member of CONSULTANT FOR PEDIATRICIANS’ editorial board, Dr Nield also works in the pediatric clinic at University Health Associates’ Pediatric and Adolescent Group Practice, where she regularly fields questions from mothers and fathers from all walks of life. Dr Nield is also the mother of 2 children of her own (Olivia, age 10, and Timmy, age 8).

To help make “Parent Coach” as relevant and useful as possible-and in keeping with the collaborative spirit of the feature-Dr Nield welcomes questions and topic suggestions from readers. These can be e-mailed to me at susan.beck@ubm.com.