Visiting a Healthcare Professional in Your Teens

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The Right Doctor

Two of the most important things to look for in a doctor are his or her level of expertise, and how comfortable he or she can make your teen feel in the office.

Expertise

First and foremost, the doctor has to know her stuff. Schedule an appointment with your teen's doctor and ask these questions: Does she have a particular interest in teens, or is she more interested in adults and younger children? Is she trained in teen-related issues like peer pressure, substance abuse, and teen sexuality? Is she comfortable dealing with gynecological issues? What other services does her office provide to teens? Is the doctor experienced with the unique mental health and depression issues that teens often face?

Comfort

"Lifetime habits form during the teen years. Smoking, drugs, alcohol..." says Dr. Marc Siegal, internist and clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University Medical School. Peer pressure can be a strong influence on these lifelong habits, and it's common for teens to struggle with difficult issues like depression, unwanted pregnancy, obesity, eating disorders, and suicide. Yet these are some of the hardest things for you teen to talk about with you, the parent, for any number of reasons.

When your teen comes face to face with these difficult issues, an experienced doctor should be able to put his mind at ease so they can frankly discuss the physical and mental health implications of his choices. Making your teen feel like an individual, and not just like one of the dozens of patients he sees in a day, will be essential. The right doctor will also make your teen aware of his privacy rights, and he will likely ask you, the parent, to leave the room so the discussion can be open and honest. (If your teen is under 18, the doctor will give you a general report after the consultation.) Some doctors even encourage their teen patients to keep in touch after the visit. Dr. Sigman offers his e-mail address to patients after consultations, yet another opportunity for your teen to get information about sensitive topics he may not want to discuss in person.

Finally, look for a doctor who provides the right atmosphere for an adult discussion. A room full of teddy bears and cute animal posters may not inspire the mature honesty with which your teen needs to approach these doctor visits. A pediatrician who sets aside a room or office specifically for his older patients may be the right choice for your teen.

Continued on page 3:  Putting Your Teen in Charge

 

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