The transition from childhood to adolescence is a complex time for kids, but it’s also a complex time for you, and you may find yourself unsure how to give your children more independence and when to stay involved. But when it comes to doctor’s visits, medical experts emphasize the importance of empowering teens to talk to their doctors one-on-one.
“During routine doctor visits, it’s important for adolescents to feel comfortable discussing their health care needs with their physicians,” says Dr. Maria Trent, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Adolescent Health. “Often, it is only during confidential, one-on-one conversations that teens are able to get the information and resources that they need to be healthy and safe.”
When teens and young adults aren’t sure if what they tell their doctors is confidential, they are less willing to discuss sensitive topics or may skip care altogether, suggests research published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health.” This is especially true for adolescents who report engaging in risky behaviors or report experiencing psychological distress, meaning those who need care the most may not be seeking it from their doctors.
You, your teens and their doctors should work together to ensure that confidential, one-on-one care is a part of every visit.
In an effort to increase the number of adolescents and young adults receiving preventive services, and to help you support your teen’s journey towards independence and responsibility, here are some tips developed by the Adolescent Health Consortium, a collaborative effort between the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
• Understand the benefits of one-on-one time between adolescents and doctors and make it a priority. Confidential care is good for teens’ health. If one-on-one time isn’t offered or encouraged during the visit, consider volunteering to leave the room.
• Prepare your teen for one-on-one time with their doctors by explaining its purpose and benefits, and encouraging them to come to the visit with a list of questions to have answered. Let teens know that it’s their bodies, their health, and their life, and that they should feel empowered to get the information they need. Explain how patient confidentiality works, so teens feel comfortable addressing any health concerns they have.
• Talk to teens about healthy relationships, positive choices, social media, as well as potentially sensitive topics, such as substance use and sexually transmitted infection prevention, gender identity and sexual orientation and more. Regular communication at home can lead to greater trust and a bigger chance that teens will open up about health concerns.
More parent resources and tips can be found at healthychildren.org.