Five tips for getting the most from your teen’s visit to the doctor

UCLA family physician Lindsay Sparks, MD
UCLA family physician Lindsay Sparks, MD

Whether you are taking your adolescent to the doctor for a well-care visit or for other concerns, this advice from UCLA family physician Lindsay Sparks, MD, who sees entertainment-industry patients at the Jack H. Skirball Health Center in Woodland Hills, will help the appointment go smoothly.

Write down your questions.
It’s easy to forget things during medical exams. You and/or your adolescent should prepare questions and bring them up at the start of the appointment. “Prioritize the most important ones,” Dr. Sparks says. “If you have a lot of questions, your doctor may suggest scheduling a phone call or making another appointment.” The start of the appointment also is a good time to bring up any changes in your family that may affect your child’s well-being, such as a parental illness or separation.

Document your child’s symptoms.
Let your teenager answer the doctor’s questions and explain any health concerns. “Children this age need to get more comfortable being in charge of their own health,” Dr. Sparks says. To help your child feel more confident taking on this role, talk to him or her before the appointment and outline what he or she wants to discuss with the doctor.

Give your child some space.
Don’t be surprised or offended if your doctor asks you to leave the exam room. “Regardless of how good of a relationship you have with your child, it is important for your child to have a chance to ask questions or share concerns without a parent present,” says Dr. Sparks.

Come prepared.
Bring all the documents to the appointment that you think your doctor might need, suggests Dr. Sparks. For instance, if a specialist has seen or treated your child, bring copies of the diagnosis, test results and treatment plan. If you need certain forms completed, such as for participation in school athletics, complete as much of the form as possible and have it ready for the doctor to sign.

Take advantage of technology.
Depending on what’s bothering your child, you might be able to avoid an office visit altogether. Most offices offer phone or e-mail consultations, which may be covered by insurance. E-mail correspondence is available via, UCLA Health’s online medical-records tool.

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