Just 15 percent of parents reported their teenagers independently share physical and emotional health concerns with their doctors. Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Most parents want to help and protect their children as much as possible. A new study conducted at the University of Michigan suggests that when it comes to healthcare, however, handling scheduling, forms and questions may impede teenagers from learning to care for themselves.
More than one-third of parents were shown in the poll to ask all the questions at their teen's visits to the doctor, limiting their ability to learn to care for themselves and potentially preventing them from asking about health issues their parents are not aware of.
Teaching teens to slowly start taking care of their own affairs makes them more self-sufficient, but a 2013 study also found it can help lower risks for anxiety and depression, as well as improve overall satisfaction with their lives as they get older.
"Having teens take the lead in responsibilities like filling out their own paperwork, describing their health problems, and asking questions during adolescence helps them gain experience and confidence in managing their health," Sarah Clark, associate director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, in a press release. "Speaking with the doctor privately is important, not only to give teens a chance to disclose confidential information, but also to provide the opportunity for them to be an active participant in their own health care, without a parent taking over."
Researchers surveyed 1,517 parents with teenage children. They found 89 percent of parents attended their teens' visits to the doctor, with two-thirds of parents filling out health history and other forms, because they either preferred to do so themselves or thought their teens would be unable.
Although 56 percent of parents said emotional and behavioral health problems were discussed with both parent and child, and 64 percent said the same for physical health issues, just 5 percent of teens asked questions independently, and only 15 percent asked to do so. Parents in the survey said their teens were uncomfortable talking about health issues.
The researchers suggest encouraging teenagers to make a list of health problems before going to the doctor, have teens check in and fill out their own forms, and that parents wait to speak, rather than taking over, in order to give children a chance to ask questions for themselves.
"Parents' top reason for handling different aspects of the health care visit is that their teen would not be comfortable talking about these subjects -- which may stem from the fact that they aren't getting much practice," Clark said.