Giving your teen some alone time with their health care provider

Parents in the exam room with teens can inhibit open conversations

Some time without parents in the exam room can help a teen develop trust with their health care provider and lead to valuable conversations about mental health, sexual health, substance use and bullying.

Teens can take it on themselves to call ahead about seeing their health care provider one on one or mention it to the staff when checking in.

Teens need to understand that anything they say to their health care provider is private and won’t be passed along to a parent or anyone else. This confidentiality is broken only if the teen discusses hurting themself or someone else, or if the teen’s situation is deemed life-threatening.

Teens also can talk to their parents about being in the exam room ahead of time. Tell them you want to start learning about taking charge of your own health care and would like some private time with the doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. You also can add that as your body changes, there are some topics you want to talk about that would be embarrassing.

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You might be surprised that your parent not only agrees, but sees it as a sign of your growing independence and responsibility.

Parents can take the lead as well by talking with your teen about whether they’d be comfortable meeting alone with the provider and suggest they think about some topics. Working with your teen’s health care provider, discuss having them participate more in their health care and giving them some time alone with the provider.

As your teen gets older, you may want to ask them whether they want a parent in the exam room at all.

“Many pediatricians will ask a teen’s parent to step out initially for a short period of time to start building trust. As the teen gets older and more comfortable, the time alone will get longer and questions will gradually involve diet, exercise, sexuality and sexual behavior, safety while driving, emotions, and substance use,” said Bradley C. Chase M.D., a pediatrician at Norton Children’s Medical Group – Frankfort.