If you have a teenager and have brought them in for a physical recently,
you’ve probably been asked by your child’s doctor to leave
the room for a few minutes at some point during the visit. Understandably,
this may create some anxiety for you, the parent, as well as prompt many
What are they talking about?
Does the doctor know something about my child that I don’t?
My child tells me everything, so this really isn’t necessary!
What if the doctor finds out something that I should know?
The answers to the above questions may vary considerably based on the situation,
but in general, we routinely ask the parents of an adolescent (aged 12
years and older) to leave the room at some point so that we can discuss
things that your teen may be uncomfortable discussing in front of his
parents. Sometimes kids need a trustworthy adult to talk to or confide
in, and when they’re not comfortable talking with a parent about
it, we hope we can serve as a resource for that child.
We’ll usually start by talking about life at home, school activities,
sports, and friends. Your child’s doctor will also bring up more
sensitive issues such as dating, sexual activity, and drug use, letting
any signals your child may give us guide the discussion. We usually end
by talking about mental health issues and briefly screening for depression.
If your child has other things they’d like to bring up, we’ll
talk about that, too. We try to create an atmosphere that fosters an open,
honest dialog with your child.
To that end, if we do talk about a sensitive topic that your child would
like to keep confidential, in most situations, we will honor that request.
There are many laws governing adolescent confidentiality for topics like
drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, and pregnancy, and we
abide by them. But we do encourage teens to talk with their parents, because
we feel that an open discussion between a parent and child is very valuable.
If need be, we will help facilitate that discussion. Certain things we
will absolutely tell you about, such as suicidal or homicidal thoughts,
because your child will need immediate help in those situations.
Most of the time, the adolescent does not have much to talk about, which
should be very reassuring! Prior to your child’s visit, we encourage
you to sit down and have an open dialog about some of these things. Remind
them that if they are not comfortable talking with you, their doctor is
an excellent resource. And always remember: we have your child’s
best interests at heart. We will treat your child as if he were our own
and, if there is a problem, get them the resources they need.