Young Teen Keeps Mom from gyn Visit

Dear Sharon,

My daughter has just turned 14. She wants me to make an appointment for her to see a gynecologist and I am very upset. She also wants to go alone. What should I do? Isn’t she too young to be seeing this kind of doctor on her own? Do I still have parental rights over things like her being given birth control for example, or am I being too old fashioned?

It is not uncommon for teens to be sorting through the complex issues involved in sexuality at a relatively early age. I have talked to many mothers and fathers whose young teens have been hesitant to have a parent present at gynecological and other doctor visits for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless I think it is important and not “old fashioned” to have Moms and/or Dads of adolescents have input into their care.

I recommend that parents of teens find doctors who have experience with adolescents and are willing to talk to and work with parents even if they are not present for their child’s medical appointment. A parental call or visit to a doctor before arranging a young person’s appointment can help parents decide if they would like to have their child under their care. An experienced physician will know perspectives and information about confidentiality, parental rights and other important details.

A skilled and experienced doctor who is a good match for a family can share their professional expertise about a child’s health concerns, be reassuring and sometimes even improve lines of communication between adults and teens.

Finding a good adolescent gynecologist, specialist or general practitioner can be difficult. One of the best sources of information is often trusted friends, relatives or known medical and school personnel. (As your question is not uncommon, there are probably people you know who have had similar challenges to solve). If a search in a family’s immediate network isn’t possible or productive then checking for on line recommendations from other parents can also help.

It is also important to remember that the majority of teens need plenty of time and attention from their parents as they sort through all of the complicated challenges of adolescence including sexuality. Setting aside ample time to relax and hang out alone with a teen, (laughing, watching a movie, having a late night snack or even shopping) can often be an excellent way of opening up lines of communication. Even if issues related to sexuality are not directly discussed in such “down” time it can help a child feel more secure, less alone and more likely to make thoughtful decisions when they know that Mom and Dad are “around” – loving and watching over them as they sort things through.

It could be good that your daughter is asking you to set up a doctor’s appointment even if she is reluctant to have you present. It could mean that she is asking for your help and guidance. Good luck as you begin this difficult but rewarding phase of parenting.