How to help teens manage their healthcare

teen healthcare Thursday, July 12, 2018

If you're the parent of a teen, you know some things change and some don't. Not every teen is ready to take responsibility for everything the day after they turn 13. But taking charge marks a developmental milestone for your young adult.

Encourage them to be more involved in their healthcare visits. You can still ask how it went while respecting your child's need for privacy.

Step 1: Help your teen take charge of preventive care

Preventive care at an annual checkup is still important for teens. But what happens at that checkup does change.

Starting at about age 16, “well-child” checkups might change in these three ways:

  1. The doctor expects the teen to understand and OK tests and treatments.
  2. Teens should speak up with questions and input about their own health.
  3. Teens may talk with the doctor or nurse alone, without a parent present. They may talk in private about:
  • Depression and other mental health conditions
  • Birth control and sexually transmitted disease prevention
  • Drug or alcohol use

Teens can begin to get involved in preventive visits by helping you:

  1. Make a list of questions to ask the doctor or nurse.
  2. Bring medications and supplements they are taking to the appointment.
  3. Bring any school forms needed for medications or sports participation.
  4. Take notes at the appointment to remember what the doctor says.

Step 2: Help your teen take responsibility for maintaining health and healthcare

Six things you can expect teens to start learning how to do themselves:

  1. Take medications on time.
  2. Fill or refill prescriptions.
  3. Know what health plan covers them and what it covers, or how to find out.
  4. Know names and contact information for doctors, clinics, and emergency care.
  5. Program emergency contacts into her or his smartphone.
  6. Know how to decide between calling the doctor or 24-hour NurseLine, going to urgent care, and going to the ER.

Step 3: Help your teen's transition to adult primary care

When children become legal adults at 18, they can get care from an adult primary care physician. They may continue to see their pediatrician into their 20s. But they'll need their own adult care provider.

Five ways you can help ease their transition to adult care:

  1. Encourage them to identify the most important qualities of the person they will want to see.
  2. Tell them about the range of providers they can choose, which includes nurse practitioners and naturopaths, as well as family physicians and internists.
  3. Ask your pediatrician for referrals.
  4. Show your child how to use the Find a Doctor tool. They can use this tool to find in-network primary care doctors when they sign in to
  5. Ask your doctor to discuss specific tests and checkups your young adult may need. Check a list of covered preventive benefits in to your account by selecting Preventive Benefits.

For suggestions about how to help your adult child find the right doctor, see How to find the right doctor for you.

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