Note: The tips shared on this page may refer to "parents," but they also apply to caregivers, such as guardians, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. There are many factors that affect whether a caregiver participates in healthcare visits, provides health supports to young people, or can access an adolescent’s health information.
Parents and caregivers can take several steps when it comes to ensuring preventive healthcare for their adolescent. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Bright Futures initiative has educational handouts for parents, caregivers, and adolescent patients to prepare for visits to a healthcare provider. Additionally, Health.gov provides strategies for parents and caregivers of adolescents to make the most out of adolescent healthcare check-ups, and GotTransition.org provides a number of resources, tools, and frequently asked questions for parents and caregivers about transitioning their children from pediatric to adult care.
- Help adolescents learn their health history. It is important to have an adolescent’s documented medical history, as healthcare providers use that information to personalize preventive care. If you or your healthcare provider does not have your teen’s immunization records, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccines section for tips on how to obtain them. The website also gives information on how parents and caregivers can help adolescents stay up to date on vaccines.
- Make a list of questions before the visit. A preventive visit is the perfect time to ask healthcare providers about an adolescent’s medical conditions (e.g., allergies) or changes in behavior or mood (e.g., a sudden lack of interest in favorite activities). Other types of questions can include what are the recommended amounts for physical activity and sleep, whether they are at a healthy weight, what immunizations they require, and how to talk to their teen about sex and healthy relationships. Parents and caregivers can talk with their adolescent about the health questions that matter to them. In younger adolescence, when parents and caregivers may sit through the entire visit, they may choose to model having a conversation with the doctor. As an adolescent gets older, the parents and guardians may opt to have the adolescent take more of the lead with their healthcare provider and/or give them privacy to ask questions.
- Encourage teens to make the most of an appointment. Guiding teens to be more involved in their healthcare can help them begin to take charge of their health. Adolescents can learn how to fill out medical forms, find important information on an insurance card, read the patient privacy notice, and prepare their own list of questions. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine’s THRIVE app provides tools for parents and caregivers to help promote health literacy with their adolescents. The app contains an extensive library of health and wellness information and provides parents and caregivers with helpful conversation starters on sensitive topics.
- Know what to expect. There are two parts to most preventive visits: a discussion with adolescents and/or parents and guardians as well as a physical exam. During the physical exam, healthcare providers generally will check an adolescent’s height and weight, vision, hearing, and blood pressure. Providers will also determine whether an adolescent needs any immunizations or lab tests. These visits may also include questions about an adolescent’s lifestyle and/or health behaviors, such as questions about smoking, drug or alcohol use, and sexual activity.