As parents, we encourage our teens to take on more personal responsibilities, including engagement in their own healthcare. This is just as important for those with medical issues as it is for otherwise healthy teenagers.
During adolescence, children undergo emotional and physical changes at a time when they are dealing with increased life stress. All of these things can affect a child’s emotional and physical health. Parents can help their children understand and assume more responsibility for their health needs. Some teens may find it difficult to openly communicate about their feelings, but it is important that they know how to speak to their doctors.
Here are some tips to help you and your teen:
- Encourage your child to communicate openly with their physician.
- Allow them privacy when they meet with their physician. Yes, Mom and Dad–that means you might leave the room!
- Assure your child of their privacy rights as outlined by physician-patient confidentiality laws.
- Help your teen become familiar with their physical and healthcare issues. They should have a sound understanding of any chronic illness and treatments.
- Have them maintain a list of their medications they are taking and ensure they understand what each medication is for.
- Allow them the freedom to contact their healthcare provider independent of you.
- Encourage independent health care management and follow up.
- Let them know you are supportive of their health, healthcare, and any decisions they wish to make (within reason of course!)
- If you fear they are not compliant with their medical plan, have an open and frank discussion with them about the ramifications of non-compliance.
- If they are non-complaint, set clear expectations and limits, then make sure you hold them to these limits.
The Age of Information
Most adolescents gain knowledge from their peers or the internet. While the internet may be a useful tool, it can also have incorrect information. The best way for your teen to understand their medical needs is to visit a doctor with whom they have a rapport and have frank and private discussions. Teens should know that they can communicate any issues they are facing to their physician and that they will not be judged or punished. Their doctor is there to address any concerns they may have.
Here are some possible questions to have your teen ask their doctor:
- Will the information I give to you be private? What, if anything, will you tell my parents?
- What will the prescribed medication do? Why am I taking it and what are the side effects?
- How can I prevent illness?
- If I do not improve, when should I call to reschedule an appointment?
Age and Consent in Healthcare
For those 18 and Over
Anyone 18 years or older is in control of their own medical care. This means several things:
- They will need to sign consents for treatments and procedures unless they have been declared incompetent or are incapacitated.
- They are not required to share their healthcare information with their parents.
- Anyone 18 years of older will be asked if they have an Advanced Directive when being admitted to the hospital. Find out more about Advanced Directives.
Minors and Medical Information
Children under the age of 18 will require parental consent for procedures or treatments. In some circumstances, a minor may receive medical care without parental consent. In these cases, the minor may then control the medical information.
These situations include:
- Minors who are married or in the armed forces may seek medical care without the consent of their parents. Minors then control their medical information.
- Minors who are pregnant or who is a parent with custody of a minor child may receive certain authorized medical services for themselves or their child without parental consent.
- Minors may request and receive medical care or services related to a sexually transmitted disease without parental consent and are then in control of their medical information.
- Minors age 16 or older may be emancipated by a juvenile court order in Utah. Emancipated minors may obtain healthcare services without parental consent and are then in control of their medical information. Legal documentation must be obtained before recognizing the minor as emancipated.
For more information, see the State of Utah Department of Health Confidentiality Policy for Minors.