Experts say teens should manage their own health

Experts say teens should manage their own health

Is your teenager ready to manage his or her own health?

“In my opinion, parents should begin to assess their adolescent’s ability to manage their health between the ages of 12 and 17; begin transitioning minor decisions at first and then follow with more important ones,” says Dr. Kevin Dahlman, pediatrician and medical director of Aurora Children’s Health. “That’s when teens begin to assert their independence and face modesty issues in a pediatrician’s office. While it’s a parent’s call to decide ​when their teen is mature enough ​to take responsibility for their health care decisions, I encourage them to think about it.”

At the age of 18, teenagers become their own health care guardians and can make all health care decisions.  That’s why Dr. Dahlman believes they should be empowered well before that age to understand and take some responsibility for their health.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your own teenager:

  1. Is your teen comfortable with his or her pediatrician; comfortable enough to ask the questions they may have about his or her health?
  2. Does your teen make his or her own doctors’ appointments?
  3. Does your teen know his or her own medical history and that of the family?
  4. Can your teen fill a prescription and take medication prescribed in a timely and appropriate fashion?
  5. In an emergency, would your teen know who to call for help?

“Preparing your adolescent to manage their own health care is similar to helping them manage their studies or finances,” says Dr. Dahlman. “And, if a teen has special health needs, it can be critical that he or she be accountable at an early age. The habits learned early, about asthma or diabetic medications, for example, will follow adolescents into adulthood.”

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  1. I absolutely disagree! Our children’s brains are not fully developed until their early 20’s. At 12 you cannot expect a child to make the right decision. A parent has the right to know what is going on with their child and also what doctors are telling them what to do. Stop trying to parent our children.

    • Reread the article, please. It is stated that parents should “begin to access” their ability to manage their health at those age ranges. If we want empowered children that can confidently make their own doctor’s appointment at 19 years old, make sure they follow up, make sure they monitor chronic conditions … then having them express their opinions regarding their own healthcare is essential. Does not mean they make the final decision – the parent does. But their opinion, as they get older, matters in many ways.

  2. I also disagree. Teaching kids at 16/17 to manage is ok, but younger than that, no. Kids are being asked at 14 to sign a document that they will or will not give their parents access to their medical information. This is just wrong to me. We as parents still have to sign forms to consent for treatments, so why would 14 year olds be in charge of letting parents access health records.

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About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!