Pediatricians For Teens? Common Questions About The Kid To Adult Healthcare Transition

Pediatricians aren't just "little kid" doctors. As your child moves into the tween and teen years, they start having new and different types of health issues. Instead of the constant earaches of the toddler years or the seemingly unprovoked temper tantrums your 4-year-old constantly had, your child is suddenly in the midst of puberty — and everything that comes along with it.

Yes, your middle or high schooler may be taller than you now. And yes, they might sound, look and think that they're an adult. But your tween or teen is still a child. Like younger children, adolescents can still benefit from seeing a pediatric specialist. If you're confused about when to switch your teen from the pediatrician to an adult internist, take a look at some of the common questions that parents have during this transitional time.

What Are the Benefits of Staying with the Same Pediatrician?

Pediatricians get to know children over the course of years. If you haven't moved or switched practices, that means that the same doctor has been there for every scrape, fever and vaccination from the time your child was a newborn. The practice's office has your child's full medical record and history, giving them a complete picture of your teen and their health status.

The continuity of care that sticking with one doctor can provide is unparalleled. Even though your child will be a full-fledged adult sooner rather than later, and that will mean finding a new doctor, making the transition too soon can disrupt your child's care. Beyond that, your child has established a comfort level with their pediatrician (over years of seeing them). This allows your child to communicate concerns to the medical professional that they might be afraid or anxious to talk about with a brand-new doctor.

What Happens If the Teen Needs to See a Specialist?

Whether your teenage daughter needs to see a gynecologist, your child is having serious psychological issues, they need professional help to treat severe acne or they have some other more "adult" type of healthcare problem, the pediatrician's office is the perfect place to start.

Pediatricians don't just specialize in treating babies and toddlers. They're also experts in working with teens. If you, or your teen, expresses the need to see a specialist, the pediatrician can provide you with referrals.

Is There an Age When a Teen Has to Move to a New Doctor?

The answer to this question depends on the practice. Some pediatricians continue to see their patients through the college years, while others only offer services up to age 19.

Along with the pediatrician's policies, you also need to consider your teen's comfort level. Talk to your child, asking for their opinion. Now is the time when your child needs to start taking control of their own life. Transitioning to an internist is a major step that can help your adolescent feel like the mature young adult they are.