teen patients

Behavior & Development • Jun 04, 2019

Why I Talk to Teen Patients by Themselves

Close your eyes and think about the teens you know (and possibly are parenting) for a second. They can be a tricky bunch, right? Sometimes super talkative, sometimes very quiet. And that can be the same kid at different times of the day!

What I Ask Teen Patients About

I try to talk to all teen patients alone for at least a few minutes – even if they just came to the emergency room for stitches. I ask about all the things that may be impacting their physical and mental health. Things they might not have thought to tell me when I asked, “Is there anything else I need to know?” These include how school is going, whether they are having any issues with bullying, substance use, depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and sexual activity.

Why I Ask Parents to Leave the Room

Occasionally, a parent will ask why they can’t stay in the room. After all, their kid is a good kid and they don’t have secrets in their house. While teen patients often tell me their parents already know they experience bullying at school or have an F in algebra, sometimes they haven’t said anything to their families yet. The reasons they give me range from, “I’m too embarrassed,” to, “My parents are already under so much stress I didn’t want to bring it up,” to, “I’ll be in so much trouble.”

When a patient hasn’t told their family yet, I always ask if they want to talk about it with their parents before they leave the office or if they would like for me to disclose for them. A lot of patients take me up on the offer to speak to their parents/guardians on their behalf. I think it just seems easier. Sometimes patients ask me not to say anything – and if they aren’t in danger, then I honor their request.

My goal is the same as yours: to get your child through adolescence in the healthiest way possible. Sometimes, they need a private space to open up about the things impacting their health. A very important part of my job is providing that space.