Most pediatricians have experienced uneasy interactions involving patients and/or their parents. The majority of literature on this topic reflects encounters in adult medicine, without providing much information for pediatricians who also face this challenge. Unique to the pediatric approach is the added quotient of the parent/family dynamic. Patients or their parents may have personality disorders or subclinical mental health issues, physicians may be overworked or have a lack of experience, and the health care system may be overburdened, fragmented, and inundated with poor communication. Recognizing the physical or emotional responses triggered by challenging patients/families may allow the provider to effectively partner with, instead of confront, the patient or the family. In this article we review existing literature on this subject and describe possible strategies for the pediatrician to use during a difficult encounter.

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