Is Your Teen Ready to See the Doctor Alone?

Parents with teen son and dog relaxing in living room; is teen ready to see doctor alone?

Do you have a tween or teen in your house? The body changes, social pressures and need for independence can put any parent or guardian to the test. So, what’s the best approach to taking your not-so-little one to the doctor? Ken Cheyne, MD, UnityPoint Health, answers that question and helps parents understand why providers value time with adolescents during appointments.

Does My Teen Need to Go to the Doctor?

Once you get through children’s early years, it might seem less necessary to take them in for yearly visits. After all, they can now tell you when they have questions or don’t feel well. But, Dr. Cheyne says there are several reasons why teens especially benefit from an annual check-up.

“Adolescence is a period of rapid physical and emotional growth and change,” Dr. Cheyne says. “It’s also when we see sophisticated developmental tasks, like decision-making and abstract thinking, and there are still immunizations (Tdap, HPV, etc.) that teens need to receive as well.”

Providers will check your child’s height, weight and blood pressure, and all adolescents between 12 and 18 years old are screened for depression per American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, usually with simple questions. Puberty will also be part of the discussion.

“The first sign of puberty in girls is breast enlargement that usually occurs between 8 and 13, but can occur as early as age 6.  The first sign of puberty in boys is testicular enlargement, which occurs between ages 9 and 14. In addition to the physical changes, both girls and boys will grow in height and may have occasional dizziness if they get up too quickly. You might notice your teen has an increased need for sleep, too,” Dr. Cheyne says.

Dr. Cheyne says it’s also a time to have questions answered for parents and adolescents. The following questions he receives most often during these visits:

  • Parents ask: Is my child developing normally? Are mood swings normal?
  • Teens ask: Am I normal? How tall will I be? What can I do about my acne?

"Both parents and teens want reassurance that the teen is developing appropriately. We address any worries either has, be it about weight, hormones, you name it,” Dr. Cheyne says.

Is My Teen Ready to See the Doctor Alone?

When a child turns 12 years old, his/her provider will start to spend some time alone with the early teen. Dr. Cheyne says this often depends on if you and your son/daughter are ready for those independent conversations to take place.

“In a sense, these one-on-one conversations allow teens to start ‘practicing for adulthood.’  For example, when they leave home or go to college, they will have to answer questions regarding their medications, their family history, etc. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to ask questions they might not otherwise ask about their health with a parent in the room,” Dr. Cheyne says.

Most teens feel most comfortable continuing with the provider they’ve seen since childhood. But, if your teen says he/she wants to see a different provider, possibly someone of the same sex, you can talk with him/her and the teen’s health care provider, who could then make a recommendation on who to see.

“Parents have to deal with ever-changing teens; they become more independent, they develop skills for many activities, such as music, sports, dance, etc. Sometimes, they act responsible, at other times they are immature. We’re here to help make those developmental years as easy as possible,” Dr. Cheyne says.

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