If you have a teenage son or daughter, you're more than a decade into the same routine: Take them to the doctor, do all the paperwork, answer the doctor's questions, and ask your own. But as your kid grows up, they need to learn to take over those jobs. It's time to get out of your rut.
Photo by Amanda Mills.
Two thirds of parents fill out their teen's health history and stay in the room with them during the whole visit, according to a survey by the C. S. Mott Children's Hospital. Some parents said that their teenage son or daughter wouldn't be comfortable talking about health issues, so they don't bother including their child in those conversations.
But teenagers grow up, often sooner than their parents realise. They may already have concerns that they're not comfortable discussing in front of their parents. The fact that they're embarrassed to talk about, say, sex (or that they think you'll be embarrassed to hear it) isn't a good reason to stop them from getting medical advice about it.
While they're still young, you can give teens a few minutes to ask questions alone. By the time they're older, they should be able to handle the whole visit themselves. The pollsters suggest a few more ways to encourage independence:
Parents can follow several strategies to promote their teens' healthcare independence. Before the appointment, parents can encourage their teen to write down any health problems or questions they have. Upon arrival, the teen can check in at the registration desk and complete any forms, with the parent available as a back-up if questions arise. During the visit, parents can wait to speak, giving space for the teen to describe any problems or questions. The early opportunities to gain skills and confidence, with a parent nearby for guidance, will pave the way for teens to navigate the health care system when they become adults.
After all, those teenagers will soon be on their own, and they should be able to take good care of themselves even without a helicopter's hovering.
Back Off: Parents Impeding Teens' Healthcare Independence? [C. S. Mott Children's Hospital via Reuters]