Help Your Teenager Take More Health Care Responsibility

By September 3, 2021Health Tips
Part of the transition to adulthood is shouldering more responsibility for your own health care.  Most teens who are in high school, may still rely heavily on parents for managing their health care.  As they become more independent as young adults, making health care decisions can be daunting for some.  They also need to become more independent when it comes to managing minor or more serious medical problems.  This is particularly true for kids who have chronic medical problems.  It helps if they can make this transition gradually with guidance along the way.  Let’s talk about how to help them make this transition to adult health care.
Help Your Teenager Take More Health Care ResponsibilityWhen and how should you start the process?
Many healthy college students have never had any responsibility for their health care.  They have never had to decide when they need to seek medical care, or who they should call if they are sick.  Some don’t know what it’s like to see a doctor by themselves.  It can be scary to be faced with an illness away from home without knowing what to do.
If your child is in high school, you should already be coaching them in this transition.  If they are already at college, you can still provide guidance on the transition while letting them take on responsibility.  You can help your teen by encouraging them to do some of the following tasks (with supervision if you feel it is required):
  • Call to make their own doctor or dentist appointments.
  • Pick up their own prescription from the pharmacy.
  • Become more knowledgeable about their own chronic medical problems.
  • Set a timer or reminder to take their own medication without you prompting them.
  • Read the immunization requirements for their chosen college or trade school and go through their immunization record to be sure they have all required vaccines.  If they don’t, they can make an appointment to get them.
  • Go into the doctor or dentist office alone for simple issues, such as a flu shot or tooth cleaning.
  • If they are heading to college, they should take on the responsibility of researching the college health center to learn where it is located on campus, how to make an appointment, what services they offer, and whether they see walk-in patients.
What else should you know and make sure they know?
  • Be sure to check the family health insurance policy before kids go off to college. Even though adult children can stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26 under the Affordable Care Act, don’t assume they’re automatically covered on campus.  Some network plans may not extend out of state.  Some colleges offer health insurance plans for students.  Determine whether your college student will need this well in advance.
  • Talk to your teen about their insurance coverage, such as what things are covered, how much they will need to pay for the copay, if there are limits on what doctors they can see, etc.
  • They need to have their insurance information with them.  Will they carry the insurance card in their wallet or take a picture of both sides of the card to keep on their phone?
  • Discuss the importance of guarding their insurance information. Teens need to know that their insurance information in the wrong hands can put your insurance at risk for fraudulent claims.
What special things should you consider for teens with chronic medical problems going to college?
  • Will they continue to see their specialist near home, or do they need to find a doctor close to their college?
  • How much should they share about their chronic medical problem with roommates or the dorm RA?  If they have diabetes and occasionally have low blood sugar that makes them pass out, or if they have a seizure disorder, someone in the dorm should be aware of the condition and what to do in case of a medical emergency.  This should be discussed well ahead of time.
  • If your teen has ADD/ADHD or other mental health issues, will they need to access the college study center for help with organization and study habits?  They should figure out how to access these services themselves.  There also should be a plan for who will prescribe their medications or counseling.  Medical doctors are licensed by their state and cannot legally prescribe medications in another state.  If college is out of state, they may need to find a doctor near school.  The school health center may have a doctor who can do this.  Your child can research this and let you know what they find out.
I know it can be hard to let your teen take on some of these responsibilities but if the transition is more gradual, both you and your teen will be less stressed about the process.
If you have any questions about teen health care responsibility, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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