Helping Kids Feel Empowered at the Doctor’s Office

Apr 28, 2023 | Children's Health

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As your child grows up, they gain more independence and autonomy in every aspect of their life, including healthcare. 

As they enter adolescence, it’s natural for them to want more privacy during their medical appointments. Nicholas George, MD, pediatrics and internal medicine physician with Our Lady of Lourdes Health, shares the advice he gives parents to help ease the transition. 

Importance of Healthcare Privacy for Adolescents

Your tween’s or teen’s desire for privacy is normal and healthy. They become more aware of their body as they age and may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their parents in the room. This doesn’t mean they don’t value your guidance or support. It just means they’re growing up.  

“As your child grows older and they get into their teenage years, you may be asked by your child’s pediatrician to step out of the room to give your child some privacy,” Dr. George says. “That is a normal part of our adolescent development and gives those children the opportunity to speak openly and in private about anything that may be going on.” 

Parents Stay Involved 

Even if part of the visit is done without mom or dad in the room, you still play an important role in your child’s healthcare. You can help your child feel comfortable talking with their doctor and help them understand any medical advice and recommendations.  

And of course, parents continue scheduling appointments and likely providing transportation to and from the office. 

Tips to Balance Privacy and Involvement 

1. Start small: If your child is uncomfortable with you being in the exam room for the entire appointment, try stepping out for part of it. This can help them feel more at ease and give them a sense of control over the situation. 

2. Ask your child what they’re comfortable with: Have an open and honest conversation with your child about their preferences when it comes to healthcare. Ask them what they’re comfortable sharing with you and what they’d rather keep private. 

3. Trust your child: If your child expresses a desire for privacy, trust that they’re making the right decision for themselves. As long as they’re not in danger or engaging in risky behavior, it’s important to respect their wishes. 

4. Communicate with your pediatric provider: Make sure your child’s provider knows that your child wants more privacy during appointments. This can help the doctor tailor their approach and ensure that your child feels comfortable and supported. 

5. Keep the lines of communication open: Even if your child wants more privacy, it’s still important to talk to them about their healthcare. Ask them how their appointments went and if there’s anything they want to share with you. Regular conversation allows you to support your child while still respecting their privacy. 

A strong relationship with your pediatrician is important throughout your parenting journey, including during your child’s transition to independence. 

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