Routine check-ups are essential for adolescents and young adults. As health risks and concerns are rapidly changing during the teen years, these preventive services can help keep your teens healthy and safe. Experts say that conversations between doctors, patients and their families during these visits are very important.
“Habits formed in adolescence often continue into adulthood, making this a key period for encouraging behaviors that promote health and reduce risk,” says Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, chair of American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence. “Routine check-ups are a great time to encourage adolescents to actively participate in their own health, and for parents play an important role in this process.”
To help families prepare for their teen’s next appointment, here are some questions doctors may ask and some tips for making the most of these visits. These tips were developed by the Adolescent Health Consortium, a collaboration among the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
- Your teen’s doctor may ask them questions like “What are your responsibilities at home?” and “What are you good at?” in an effort to gauge their emotional development, their ability to cope with stress, and assess their risk for depression, anxiety, or other concerns.
- You may be asked general questions about your home, neighborhood, and your teen’s school environments in order to help the doctor determine whether your child is eating enough, feels safe, and is getting enough sleep. This can offer an overall picture of your teen’s well-being.
- Your teen’s doctor will likely ask your teen about their sexual activity, contraceptive methods, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy prevention, as well as about their use of tobacco, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription and street drugs. You may be asked about the kind of conversations you’re having at home about avoiding risky behaviors.
- Routine check-ups are also a good time to see whether a patient is at risk of developing eating disorders, so the doctor may ask your teen about their diet, exercise routine, and feelings about their body with questions like, “how do you feel about the way you look?” and “do you ever skip meals?”
- Your teen’s doctor may start discussions on topics like puberty, sexual development, gender identity, sexual attraction and sexuality. Teens should feel safe discussing these topics with their doctor and with you.
“There is a gap between what adolescents and young adults want to discuss and what they actually talk about during doctor’s visits,” says Dr. Alderman, who points out that doctors are more likely to gather accurate information about a teen’s health when parents are supportive of confidential, one-on-one time between teens and their doctors. “Confidentiality is essential to adolescent health care, empowering teens to get the information they need to stay healthy. Teens and parents, separately, should make a list of questions and discussion topics to address with the teen’s doctor.”
For more resources, visit HealthyChildren.org.
When teenagers and parents know what to expect in advance, they can get a lot more out of doctor’s visits. Remember, confidential care is good for their health.
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