Teaching Responsible HealthCare to Teens
As the kids have grown, I’ve watched them exert their independence from me in creative and interesting ways. From tying their shoes to making their own lunches, I’ve enjoyed seeing them become people and not just the helpless diapered babies that required my attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve done it all it seems; fed, bathed, rocked, and nourished them. I’ve kissed their boo-boos, deciphered and diagnosed illnesses, and been chauffer and translator to every doctor appointment ever made.
You see, as my oldest grows and has become teenager, it never dawned on me that I’m not needed when it comes to the doctor’s visits. While he’s not old quite old enough to make his own appointments or drive himself there, he definitely doesn’t need me in the room anymore (or so he’s told me).
It’s a big shock to a mom who has sat through countless doctors’ visits, recounting her child’s growth, illnesses, health concerns, and development but there comes a time when it’s our children’s turn to take over and learn to be in charge of their own healthcare.
The thought of handing over the responsibility of healthcare to my teenager scares the daylights out of me but I know it’s a part of growing up and becoming an adult. In order to help him be a responsible and active participant I’ve given him some tips on what every person should do when they visit the doctor. I believe these are good healthcare tips that every parent can share with their teenager.
Know Why You’re Going – Is this a checkup or are there some health issues going on? Make sure your teenager knows why they are in the doctor’s office. This will help them shape their visit and help get the most out of it.
Prepare Some Questions – Are there concerns that your teen is having? It can feel intimidating to be in the doctor’s office and it’s easy to forget things that they may want to bring up. Having a list prepared when they go in will keep them from forgetting what they want to know about the most. You can help them prepare their questions and include things you want to know as well.
Trust Their Intuition – Even during the teen years, they know their body better than anyone. If something doesn’t feel quite right or they don’t think the doctor understands what they are trying to tell them, have them speak up. It’s also important to speak up if they don’t agree with what the doctor is saying. Once the visit is over, you can talk to them about what (if any) course of action is being taken and as their parent, you can get the lowdown from the doctor as well.
Read All Literature – When a prescription is written don’t allow them to just take the medicine before having them go over what drug interactions there may be, side effects, or adverse reactions or restrictions. Teaching them to read the material or information sent home with them will help them understand any condition or medicine they are taking as well as any do’s or don’ts involved.
Be Honest – A trip to the doctor is not the time to clam up about what may be going on with their body. Teens may get embarrassed talking about any health issues or not want to discuss anything they find embarrassing. If your teen can’t come out in the open and discuss their health honestly, something might be missed. Explain that without being honest and giving the doctor all the information, it’s going to be more difficult for the doctor to treat them.
Even now as my two middle children enter the tween years; their doctor has taken to talking to them more and me less when we pay a visit. The goal in that is to get them comfortable talking to them at an early age and letting them explain what is going on with their bodies. If you find that your tween or teen is clamming up while you’re in the room, excuse yourself for a minute so that they can open up and talk privately.
Once they become a teenager, you’ll find yourself in the waiting room more often than in the exam room. Don’t be afraid to request some time with the doctor yourself if you have questions or concerns. Most doctors are happy to talk to parents but keep in mind; they took an oath to keep patient information private. By the time your teenager is 16 or 17, you may not be privy to everything they discuss.
Nearly all of these tips are things we normally do but as our children grow into adults, we need to teach them to do these things as well. Being a responsible patient means being a knowledgeable one.
What tips might you add or what tips have you given your own teenager on being responsible for their own healthcare?