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The Informed Parent

The Teenage Physical and Confidentiality

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Oct. 08, 2007

The teenage years are certainly challenging. As a general rule teens want more independence and privacy, and parents struggle to stay close to their children and protect them during these vulnerable years.

As pediatricians we hope to encourage teens to talk about their health, make safe and educated decisions and take responsibility for their actions with the hope that they will take this knowledge and continue to be healthy adults.

With that in mind, whenever a teenager comes to the office, we do our best to make some time to speak to the teen alone. Some parents surely are wondering…what EXACTLY goes on in the examining room after they are asked to step out?

Some areas of teen health that we may talk about during the appointment are:

  • Diet, exercise and body image
  • Peer pressure and school
  • Family life
  • Working/jobs
  • Fighting, danger and violence
  • Safety and driving
  • Smoking, drugs and alcohol
  • Depression and stress
  • Dating and relationships
  • Sexuality and sexual behavior

We ALWAYS encourage teenagers to share information about these subjects and their health with their parents or guardians. However, California law allows teenagers to receive some health care services on their own. All health care providers have to keep those services confidential. Confidential means we can only share this information if a teenager says it’s alright or if someone is in danger.

Those confidential services include:

  • The prevention or treatment of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • The diagnosis and treatment of sexual or physical abuse
  • Care and counseling for drug or alcohol problems

Of course our goal is to always maintain trusting and honest relationships with our patients and their families. We urge honest communication between teens and parents, and make health ahd safety a priority.

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