The medical exam is an important part of the investigation process, providing valuable information about what has happened to the child. The results of the exam can be used by the police in their investigation.
What to tell a child about the exam
When telling a child about the exam, it is important to give accurate and age-appropriate information. A general understanding of why they are coming and who they will see will be helpful to your child.
The timing of telling a child about the exam is important. For children under 8, it is a good idea to tell them about the appointment only a day or two before the actual meeting as a longer period can cause them to become anxious.
For children 8 years of age and over, it is a good idea to tell them about the appointment several days prior so they can have the opportunity to ask more questions and talk through any concerns they have.
When talking to a child, it is important to stress safety and health. It is also helpful to talk about the fact that the professionals working in this area see many children, and that the child is not alone in this experience.
Addressing anxiety about the medical exam
It is not uncommon for a child to be nervous about a medical exam. Letting the child know that their feelings are okay and talking to them about what they are feeling is key.
Children need accurate age-appropriate information. If answers to questions aren’t known, it is okay to let the child know that.
The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre Child Life Specialist can help prepare a child for the exam. The Specialist’s role is to explain to children and their families what the process will look like and to go over any questions or concerns. This is done in a child-friendly way.
The Child Life Specialist will walk through each component of the medical exam so the child knows exactly what will occur and understand why each component is being done.
Who is present at the exam
In general, a child will meet a doctor (pediatrician), teaching doctor (resident), nurse clinician and a support person (if present). The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre’s Child Life Specialist can also support the child during the medical exam if the child would like this and if there is no other support available.
Length of time for the exam
The length of the medical exam will be different depending on each situation.