Bright Futures, a helpful guideline for our physicals, describes the ages of 11 to 14 as early adolescence. These years are typically filled with a great amount of change in a child’s life and can be both exciting and terrifying.
Most of us remember our own awkward years, either good or bad. Visits to the doctor can be a lot of fun for some children but embarrassing to others. This makes the pre-teen and teen visits even more important. Because of this awkwardness or embarrassment, we often ask parents to step out of the room for the first time during one of these visits. Parents sometimes wonder why.
Each visit with your child is an opportunity for us to build our relationship with him or her. This relationship with their health care professional will promote confidence and full disclosure of health information. It also can enhance self-management.
At Forest View Pediatrics, I like to explain this to parents in three sections:
1.) It’s time for your child to ask an adult in a confidential setting any questions they may be too scared or embarrassed to ask anyone else. Often these questions arise more from jokes or stories they’ve heard friends tell and less often from personal experience. They can ask me anything and get my opinion. However, I do encourage my patients to discuss these same topics with their parents, too. A parent’s opinion will always be the most important one despite what your child’s friends may think.
2.) Puberty is very personal and many children have questions they may not feel comfortable asking. Many questions can come up during the exam. “Is that normal?” is a pretty common one and the answer is almost always “yes.” Reassuring your child that he or she is normal is a large part of the visit.
3.) Building a great patient-doctor relationship. We love when teens are able to express their concerns directly to their doctor. It shows that he or she is comfortable without mom or dad giving the answers. We want to encourage your son or daughter to speak for themselves about their health and lifestyle. To me, this is the most important reason for the visit.
So, if we ask you to step out of the room for a visit, it’s only because we want to get to know your child better. We want to help them grow into mature, expressive adults we know you’ll be proud of.
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to care for your kids.
-Paul Veldhouse, MD, Forest View Pediatrics