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Helping Teens Take Charge of Their Health

Published on Nov 19, 2018
Medically reviewed by Alison Mitzner, MD

As your teen leaves childhood behind and moves towards adulthood, it’s time for them to begin taking responsibility for some of their healthcare needs. While taking the first steps can be challenging for both you and your teen, there are things you can do to help make the transition go smoothly. Read on to learn more.

Why should your teen be more involved?

As teens mature, their healthcare needs can become more complex and personal. At one time or another, they may have to deal with, or have questions about, a number of health and social issues such as:

  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Sex and contraception.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Unintended pregnancy.
  • Issues at school.
  • Automobile accidents.
  • Nutrition and weight control.

Some teens may be comfortable talking with you or your spouse, but there may be health-related issues that for one reason or another they can’t bring themselves to share with you. That’s where a healthcare provider can help. By encouraging your teen to build a trusting relationship with their healthcare provider, you can give them the opportunity to be an effective partner in their own healthcare.

Until that trust is built, your teen may be uncomfortable and embarrassed to be completely open with their healthcare provider. If that’s the case, remind your teen that healthcare providers are trained to care for patients and have likely dealt with similar health-related issues during their career. You can also reinforce that healthcare providers don’t judge their patients. Their goal is to provide the best treatment and information possible, and they can do that only if your teen is forthcoming about the concerns or questions they may have.

Your teen may worry that the healthcare provider may tell you what he or she talked about. If your teen feels that way, let him or her know that a healthcare provider will keep the details of what he or she shares private. However, the healthcare provider will not keep information confidential if your teen is being hurt by someone or if he or she is hurting him- or herself, or someone else. There are laws that require healthcare providers to share information if there is a possibility that someone is getting hurt. Talk with your teen’s healthcare provider about what information will be shared and what can be kept private.

The healthcare provider should also encourage their teen patients to talk with their parents about their healthcare concerns.

9 tips to help teens take charge of their health

  1. Talk with their healthcare provider about the right time to start giving them more healthcare-related responsibility.
  2. Ask them to see if or when they prefer to talk with their healthcare provider alone.
  3. Encourage them to learn everything they can about:
    • Any chronic (long-term) health issues they may have.
    • Any medicines they take.
    • Their family medical history.
  4. Get them involved in healthcare-related tasks such as making appointments, helping to fill out medical forms, and writing down questions to ask their healthcare provider.
  5. Prepare them for their conversations with their healthcare provider. These conversations could include subjects such as:
    • School, family life, friends, and interests.
    • How they feel emotionally.
    • Sex, birth control, and getting tested for sexually transmitted infections.
    • Having a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and physical activity.
    • Drugs, alcohol, tobacco use, and the peer pressure that may be associated with them.
  6. Teach them how to fill and refill a prescription.
  7. Provide a network of adults that they can talk with about health-related subjects.
  8. Prepare them to take care of their health-related needs if they go away to college by helping them learn:
    • The location of the healthcare facility on campus.
    • Where to go if they get sick or need emergency care.
    • What insurance plan they have and how to use it.
  9. Download and review the Teen Health Checklist.

If your teen has special needs

Teens with special needs may be able to manage some of their healthcare needs. Talk with your healthcare provider or social worker about when you can begin handing over some of this responsibility.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]


  • 1. KidsHealth.org. Giving Teens a Voice in Health Care Decisions. Accessed July 17, 2018.
  • 2. Healthychildren.org. Information for Teens: What You Need to Know About Privacy. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  • 3. Healthychildren.org. Tips for the College Freshman. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  • 4. HealthyPeople.gov. Adolescent Health. Accessed July 17, 2018.
  • 5. TeensHealth.org Talking to Your Doctor. Accessed July 17, 2017.
  • 6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen Health Services and One-on-One Time with a Healthcare Provider. Accessed August 30, 2018.
  • 7. Healthfinder.gov. Make the Most of Your Teen’s Visit to the Doctor (Ages 15 to 17). Accessed July 17, 2017.
  • 8. Familydoctor.org Teenagers. Teenagers: How to Stay Healthy. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  • 9. Familydoctor.org. Helping Your Child Deal with Peer Pressure. Accessed August 28, 2018.
External Resources

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After reading this article, how likely are you to talk with your teen about taking more responsibility for their healthcare?


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