By: Lauren Ayr-Volta, PhD, and Siddika Mulchan, PsyD

By the time your child enters their teenage years, they should be getting ready to take charge of their own health. The more confident they feel speaking up at doctor’s visits, the better. It gives their doctor more information to support them through adolescence – and sets your child up for healthy behaviors later in life too. 

How can you empower your teen to get more involved at doctor’s visits? Here are tips, with help from Connecticut Children’s psychologists Lauren Ayr-Volta, PhD, and Siddika Mulchan, PsyD.

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Reassure your teen that they can trust their doctor.

It can be hard to talk about personal issues, especially sensitive subjects that tend to come up during adolescence like sexuality, body image, drug and alcohol use, and bullying.

Reassure your teen that their doctor will never judge them. Their doctor’s job is to listen respectfully, ask questions to understand better, and share helpful information.

Give your teen one-on-one time with their doctor.

No matter how much your teen trusts you, sometimes they can only open up about certain topics with their doctor.

The best way to support your teen’s health is to give them that opportunity. With their permission, you can set the stage by excusing yourself from the exam room during the second half of the visit, giving your teen time to talk privately with their doctor.

> Related: How Parents and Caregivers Can Help Prevent Youth Suicide

A male teen at the doctor

Encourage your teen to write down questions to bring with them.

Sometimes, we all go blank when we’re in the exam room. Suggest that your teen spend some time before their appointment writing out a few questions. When the time comes, if they’re too nervous to read the questions out loud, they can hand the list to their doctor.

Practice starting these conversations with your teen.

Starting a conversation with their doctor can feel uncomfortable, and it can be a challenge to know exactly what to say or how to express certain thoughts. Practicing with your teen, especially through role-playing, can help them get a feel for what they want to express and how to communicate their questions effectively.

Does your teen need help brainstorming questions? Here are 24 ideas to get them started.

Questions to Ask About Confidentiality

  • Is it OK for me to see you without my parents in the room?
  • Will I get in trouble because of anything I tell you?
  • Will you tell my parents what we talk about?

Questions to Ask About Support

  • Is _______ normal?
  • Can we talk about ________?
  • Can you help me find support for _______?
  • Can you help me talk to my parents about _______?
A teen girl at the doctor

Questions to Ask About a Diagnosis

  • Can you draw me a picture or show me what’s wrong?
  • Is it serious?
  • What causes it?
  • Can I give this illness to someone else?
  • Will this affect me in the future?
  • Do I need to stop any activities or foods right now?
  • When can I go back to normal activities and foods?
  • How can I prevent this from happening again?

Questions to Ask About Medicines, Treatments and Tests

  • What does this do?
  • Why do I need it?
  • Are there any risks or side effects?
  • What will happen if I don’t take or do it?
  • How soon should I get it?
  • Do I need to do anything to prepare?
  • What side effects or changes should I call you about?
  • If I start feeling better, should I stop?
  • What happens if I don’t feel better?

> Related: How to Prepare Your Child for Surgery

Finally, remind your teen to be honest with their doctor.

It may not always feel easy, especially when it comes to certain subjects. But it’s really important – and nothing your teen says will shock or embarrass their doctor. This is what doctors do! It’s their job to talk about really personal things, so they can help their patients be safe and healthy.