Amy Olejniczak, MS MPH
Founder and Director, Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH®) Program
Just like learning to drive a car, doing laundry, or paying a cell phone bill, managing healthcare is an important life skill for teens to master before they leave home.
Teens are at an exciting, yet challenging, time in life. They are experiencing new things and are trying to figure out what it means to become an adult. Many are learning skills and forming habits that will stay with them into adulthood. Learning how to manage their own healthcare is one of many life skills that will set them up for success as they get older. Parents and caregivers have an important role in teaching and supporting their teens through this transition.
Here are five simple ways to help teens begin to take charge of their own health care:
1. Coach teens through making their own appointment
Support them as they find the clinic phone number, call, and request an appointment. You could also help them schedule online.
2. Make sure teens have one-on-one time with their healthcare provider
One of the most important things a parent can do is encourage their teen to talk one-on-one with providers. This gives them the chance to practice independence in a safe environment and talk about their health with another trusted adult.
3. Encourage teens to bring a list of questions to their appointment
Whether on paper or on a phone, it is important to create a list of questions before appointments so they don’t forget to ask. It can be hard to ask questions, especially if teens are afraid of “sounding dumb” or being judged, but speaking up is the best way to get the care they need and deserve.
4. Empower teens to take responsibility for details
Have your teen try filling out their own paperwork or picking up their own prescription. If they don’t know their health history, help them learn. Show them where you keep important information, like which vaccinations they have gotten or details about a past surgery.
5. Stress the importance of being open & honest with healthcare providers
The more the provider knows, the better care your teen will get. Plus, empowering your teen to have healthy conversations with trained and trusted professionals will prepare them to be successful, confident, and skilled adults.
It’s never too early to start empowering your children with new responsibilities. And it’s also never too late to start helping your teen navigate the healthcare world. You’ve (both) got this.