3 signs your child is too old for the pediatrician


Recently, writer Stephanie Booth with Cafe Mom’s The Stir discussed with our chief of adolescent medicine, Neville Golden, MD, tips on when to transition a child from pediatric to adolescent care.

Babies see a pediatrician. Adults visit an internist. And tweens and teens go to … um, wait. Where do they go? There comes a time when it feels plain awkward to ask your kid to endure an Elmo video and flip through a Highlights magazine for half an hour just to get a flu shot.

In fact, “most pediatricians are trained to take care of children up until the age of 21,” says Neville Golden, MD, chief of adolescent medicine at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California, “but some don’t make their office teen-friendly or feel comfortable with teenage patients.”

Here, the three red flags that mean you need to find your adolescent a different doctor.

1. Your pediatrician’s office is geared more toward toddlers than teens.

This in and of itself should not be a deal breaker. But sometimes, you can get a sense of how well or often your pediatrician deals with adolescents simply by looking around their office, says Golden. “Do they only have toys in the waiting room or do they have videos, posters, and brochures teens would be interested in?”

2. Your pediatrician doesn’t acknowledge that your kid is growing up.

Most doctors start to treat kids differently at around age 12 or 13, says Golden. For instance, they may politely ask you to leave the exam room so they can spend most of the appointment time with your child. And they should broach sensitive topics like drugs, sexuality, depression, and anxiety. That might seem awfully early, but “by age 14 or 15, these issues might very well come up,” Golden explains. “We want kids to know they have a safe place to discuss them.”

3. Your kid hates going for an appointment.

It’s one thing if your tween or teen complains about going to the pediatrician because, hey, they low-grade complain about everything. It’s another if they bring up a valid point — “The doctor treats me like a baby,” for instance, or “He never listens to me!”

You shouldn’t feel shy about coming right out and asking your family doctor how many adolescents he sees or how he treats them differently. If he admits that he doesn’t, or it’s not his area of expertise, look for another pediatrician or an adolescent medicine specialist in your area.

“You can simply tell your child, ‘Now that you’re getting to be a teenager, issues may come up that you’re more comfortable discussing with a different doctor,'” Golden says.

More at Cafe Mom’s The Stir.

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