'Helicopter' Parenting May Backfire at Doctor's Office

In a new national poll, researchers discovered parents of teens may struggle letting go of the reins when it comes to their children’s health checkups.

Just 34 percent of parents say their teen discussed health concerns privately with a doctor without them in the room, and less than 10 percent say their teens can complete their health history form independently.

The University of Michigan study examined responses from a nationally representative group of parents of teens ages 13-18.

“The majority of parents are managing teens’ health care visits, and their teens may be missing out on valuable opportunities to learn how to take ownership of their own health,” said Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H.

Clark believe teens should actively participate in all aspects of the encounter with a medical provider.

“Having teens take the lead in responsibilities like filling out their own paperwork, describing their health problems, and asking questions during adolescence helps them gain experience and confidence in managing their health.”

It is also important for teen to develop a professional relationship with their physician.

“Speaking with the doctor privately is important, not only to give teens a chance to disclose confidential information, but also to provide the opportunity for them to be an active participant in their own health care, without a parent taking over,” explains Clark.

Nearly 40 percent of parents say that they alone — not their teen — would ask questions about health issues. Only 15 percent of parents say their teen would independently share physical or emotional problems with the doctor.

“Parents’ top reason for handling different aspects of the health care visit is that their teen would not be comfortable talking about these subjects, which may stem from the fact that they aren’t getting much practice,” said Clark.

“Parents are naturally concerned about their child’s health and that transition to letting their teens become independent in the health setting can be difficult,” she said. “But with parents’ guidance, these early opportunities will help teens prepare to navigate the health care system and take responsibility for their own health as they get older.”

Ways to help your child become independent at health visits:

  • Before an appointment, encourage your teen to write down any health problems or questions they have;
  • Upon arriving at a doctor’s visit, ask your teen to check in at the registration desk and complete forms;
  • During the visit, wait to speak, giving your teen space to describe any problems or ask any questions.

Source: University of Michigan
Teenager with her doctor photo by shutterstock.