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How Can I Take Charge of My Own Medical Care?

Doctors recommend that teens start getting involved in their medical care so they're prepared to handle things as adults.

Still, some parents don't feel comfortable with the idea. The reasons why depend on the parent, of course. But most of the time, parents don't want to let go because they care and feel responsible. They know how complicated the health care system can be.

How Can I Get My Parents to Let Me Manage My Health Care?

Here are some tips and ideas for talking with your mom or dad:

Start by asking for their help and guidance. Sometimes, we can be so eager to learn and take charge that the person trying to teach us doesn't feel needed anymore. So parents might have to ease into this. It's a learning experience for everyone.

One thing you can do is show that you still value their support and knowledge. Say, "I know you've been doing this for me all my life. Now that I'm older, I want to learn more about managing my health. Could you help explain what's involved in making an appointment and filling out paperwork?"

Next, suggest that you handle a specific task. For example, say: "I'd like to try making an appointment myself next time so I can get confident about handling that kind of thing on my own."

Your doctor may have already seen you alone without a parent in the room. If you feel comfortable doing so, you might want to include your parent in some appointments so they feel more involved. For example, if you need to get a test or procedure, you could say, "I want you to go with me for this visit. I need your moral support!" This shows them that you will ask for help if you need it.

Keep the conversation going. Make talking about your health more than a one-time thing. Show you really want to learn by asking questions. For example, ask about injuries or illnesses you had as a child. Or find out about health problems that run in your family (like allergies or migraines, for example). Knowing about these can sometimes help you gain insight into your own health issues.

Show you're serious. Read up on things like health insurance and medical records. Ask questions. For example, "Could you help me understand deductibles?" Or, "I'd like to learn more about health insurance. How long can I stay on our family plan and when will I need to get my own?"

Be open about what's bothering you. If your parent still won't let you get involved in your medical care, have an honest conversation about it. Ask what they're worried about. Gently let them know that when they don't offer details (like saying, "Because I said so!" instead of explaining), it means you are left guessing about why and it feels like they don't believe that you can learn.

Be patient. It can seem like parents stay too involved in our lives. Chances are, they're doing it out of love. So try not to get upset if things don't go as fast as you'd like. This isn't only about you learning the ropes; it's also about parents getting the reassurance they need to let you take charge. So keep talking — and learning!

Reviewed by: Amy E. Renwick, MD
Date Reviewed: Aug 20, 2023

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