6 Tips: Make the Best of Your Teen’s Annual Health Physical
1. Make an appointment. Now.
Teens are a dynamic animal. And fortunately, most are very healthy. But healthy kids need doctors, too. Subtle changes in physical exam, measurements, and lifestyle can be concerning issues to a trained pediatrician’s eye. And if teens are not routinely seen by a provider, opportunities for easy correction and treatment can be lost.
A pediatrician is expertly trained to provide a complete physical exam for your teen child. Our job is to be sure that your child’s global health is optimal, physically and mentally. We specialize in the growth and development of teens, as well as discuss the risks and challenges of their age.
Most importantly, seeing healthy teens and their families is when pediatricians can make the biggest relationship impacts. Well child visits are instrumental in developing a working partnership with someone in the health care field that can be your family’s partner and advocate should challenges or illness arise.
And, we love to see you. Please make an appointment for your teen to be seen.
2. Define your concerns.
Since teens are generally healthy creatures, parents and kids often have absolutely NO concerns about their child’s health. GREAT! These visits can be used to review healthy habits, safe living practices, and look at vacation photos. I love those check-ups.
Your teen’s appointment is, however, the only time we will likely see each other this year, so please take a minute to think about any issues you would like to discuss. In fact, make a list. Then, remember to bring the list with you to the appointment.
3. If you have significant issues to discuss, consider sending an email or letter giving some details prior to your appointment.
Issues such as depression, weight gain or loss, menstrual concerns, ADHD, and headaches much more effectively addressed if your provider has had some extra time and some extra history prior to the appointment.
If you know that you have a significant concern to discuss, please let the person who is making your teen’s appointment know. This is to allow for extra time, if needed. In addition, ask the scheduler if you would be able to send a note to the physician prior to the appointment. This will optimize our time together.
4. Have the parent’s section of camp forms, health forms, and athletic participation forms completed.
5. Prepare to spend some time apart.
After talking with a patient with his or her family, pediatricians often speak with teens privately. It allows an opportunity for us to get to know each patient on a more personal level, without parental interruption. In addition, this allows your teen to “practice” talking with a physician - a very important life skill.
The goal of this time is to repeat and reinforce the healthy habits you are already discussing with your teen. The more we know about your family, the better this is accomplished. In addition, private conversations begin establishing a foundation of trust with each patient. As your teen’s trust with a physician grows, it is easier for them to have honest and open dialog about potential health risks.
In pediatrics, the conversations with teens are confidential and protected. Providers are obligated to share information with parents in defined situations, such as patients who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
6. Never promise your teen that there will be “no shots.”
The recommendations from the vaccine advisory boards are always changing. Vaccines are a very important way of protecting your teen from significant, deadly diseases. Teens are getting protected from chicken pox, meningitis, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis, and human papilloma virus with some of today vaccines.
Have a great summer, and a great checkup with your pediatrician!