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DEAR PIP: At my daughter's last doctor visit, I was asked to leave the room.

Updated: May 14, 2022

I felt very uncomfortable about this. She's only sixteen. I feel like I should know everything that is happening surrounding her care. At what age should children be visiting a doctor by themselves? Is this legal?

This is such a pivotal moment as a parent - to realize there are some situations when calling on our village to help provide the best care for our children is essential. Their healthcare, especially in their teenager years, is one of those situations. And it isn't to say that you shouldn't know about your child's health, but it is so important to give our teens the safe space to speak to a caring adult, especially in a particular area of expertise.

After talking to a small group of doctors from Maple Grove Hospital, here are the main points they wanted to express when responding to this theme.

Adolescent Well-Visits typically begin around 12 years old. During these visits, the pediatrician will go over health history and general questions with the parent/family present. When it is time for the testicular or pelvic examination, they usually ask the parent to leave the room. They also mentioned that it is common practice for there to be a chaperone or assistant in the room during that time as well. In fact, the physicians encouraged parents to request one if that isn't the case.

What is discussed? These moments provide as essential opportunity for an expert to check in with your teen/preteen about several topics that are often hard to breach as a parent - things like puberty, sexual development and activity, contraception, drug and alcohol use, etc. Physicians will emphasize confidentiality in most areas, with the exception of the patient discussing a desire to hurt himself/herself or if abuse/neglect is shared with the doctor. The physicians also shared that prior to inviting parents back into the room, they typically discuss with the patient what they should collectively discuss with the parent/guardian and will often help lead the conversation if something needs to be talked about further.

The goal of any wellness visit is to ensure the health and well-being of the patient is being addressed. Adolescence can be a time full of change (a lot of unwelcome change, too!) for any teen so it's extra important to build a comfortable, safe network of support.

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