Around the time your child starts middle school, your pediatrician will likely request that some part of his or her annual well visit is completed without you in the room. For some parents, this is a reassuring practice, while others may feel ousted from their preteen’s care. Rest assured, this time is not intended to push you out of the loop—quite the contrary, your pediatrician is doing their best to leave no stone unturned.
One-on-one time between adolescent patient and physician is important for multiple reasons:
- Teens may have an easier time communicating sensitive information to an objective third party rather than an emotionally-invested family member.
- If a problem is identified or disclosed, your pediatrician is equipped to provide treatment, advice, or referrals without bias, meaning parents aren’t alone in finding solutions.
- It’s beneficial for teens to take some responsibility for their healthcare so they’ll continue to do so after mom or dad isn’t making their appointments anymore.
A common concern for parents of adolescents is sex education. Under no circumstances is your pediatrician encouraging or making light of sexual relationships while you’re not in the room, and it may not even be a point of discussion.
One-on-one time addresses any number of subjects, including body image, weight or dietary concerns, bullying, school performance, menstrual questions in female patients, stress, anxiety, depression or other negative feelings, and any number of the body changes that come with puberty.
“One on one time with my teenagers allows me to let them know that I am their advocate. It allows them privacy and to establish trust with their pediatrician. Often I am saying the same things as their parents, like don’t smoke or do drugs, but it helps to hear it from an objective person” said Dr. Karen Abrams with Kaplan Barron Pediatrics.
All One Pediatrics practices administer screenings at various stages of development. These surveys help identify specific areas of concern, but it may also be standard practice for your doctor to request that you step out beginning at a set age. If you feel uneasy about this, feel free to ask your office when this begins. They likely have a handout or web page with additional information. Additionally, you may want to let your child know to expect this—they might be more nervous about it than you are!
By supporting your child’s independent interaction with their healthcare professional(s), you’re establishing a precedent that they’re in a safe place and you’ll be a cooperative team member in their care. You can nurture a positive lifelong relationship with healthcare by discussing subjects from the list above at home too. This way, it’s not so foreign to bring them up in a doctor’s office.
Always remember that your pediatrician is uniquely qualified to consider your child’s needs and your family’s. They generally speak to just as many (if not more) parents as patients in a day, and they understand the parenting journey is full of surprises. Leaving the room during your child’s exam need not make you anxious. We hope you’ll embrace this time as a reminder that you’re not carrying the weight of your teen’s health alone.