If it's been more than a year since your child's last physical, take advantage of the end of summer by scheduling a trip to the pediatrician's office. "Even healthy kids charging ahead on autopilot should have an annual checkup so doctors can stay on top of their development," says Gwenn O'Keeffe, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's also a great opportunity for moms to address any concerns that wouldn't normally warrant an office visit. Give these topics some thought before your child's appointment.
Elementary School Years
Body Mass Index: The obesity rate is 20% and rising for kids between the ages of 6 and 11. Check that your child's BMI falls within a healthy range
HPV vaccine: The vaccination to prevent human papillomavirus (which is spread through sexual contact and can cause cervical cancer) is recommended for girls who are 11 or 12 years old—and it's also approved to prevent genital warts in boys ages 9 and up.
Middle School Years
Puberty: Even a child who has a great bond with his parents may be too embarrassed to talk to them about puberty. During an exam he can ask the doctor about his changing body.
Aches and pains: If your child starts complaining about headaches—especially on weekdays—ask for help pinpointing the cause. Sometimes it's a sign of a health issue, but more often than not, it's a kid's way of expressing a problem at school.
High School Years
Stress: Some anxiety about grades, college and the future is expected, but consult your physician if your teen becomes overwhelmed or depressed.
Sleep: Hormonal changes make teens want to stay up late—just 15% of them get the recommended 9 hours and 15 minutes of rest on school nights. Discuss your kid's sleep habits if daytime fatigue seems excessive.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.