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Young teen wants to visit gynecologist — alone

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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 because 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, or am I being too old-fashioned?

Dear Parent,

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 a gynecological — and other medical — visit for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, I think it is important and not “old-fashioned” to have parents 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 the doctor’s 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 her professional expertise about a child’s health concerns, be reassuring, and sometimes, even improve the 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 (since 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 online for 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 she knows that Mom and Dad are around — loving and watching over her as she sorts through things.

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.

Sharon C. Peters is a mother and director of Parents Helping Parents, 669 President St., Brooklyn; (718) 638-9444. If you have a question about a challenge in your life (no issue is too big or small) e-mail it to Dear Sharon at SWeiss@cnglocal.com.
Updated 4:38 pm, December 9, 2016
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