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Should Your Teen Still See A Pediatrician? FAQs About Well-Child Visits

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Does your tween or teen still need to visit the pediatrician annually? Even though your child is now taller than you, this doesn't mean they're ready for an adult doctor. Before you skip a well-visit or start searching for a general primary care physician (PCP), take a look at what you need to know about pediatric services, tweens/teens, and adolescent medical care.

Do Tweens and Teens Need Well-Child Visits?

Yes, a child who is 11-plus years old still needs to have an annual check-up. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the well-child visit schedule should include annual doctor's appointments from age 3 through 21. Before the age of three, children will need to see the pediatrician more often than once per year. 

Why Do Tweens and Teens Need Well-Child Visits?

The well-child check-up is a preventative visit. This means your child may feel perfectly fine and have no known health issues at the time of the visit. But this important appointment gives the doctor time to examine your child, order tests (if needed), and assess potential problems. The well-child visit may also include vaccinations, a mental health check, a hearing screening, and time to ask questions.

How Is A Well-Child Visit Different For An Adolescent?

Many parts of your teen's annual well-visit will stay the same. The doctor will provide a physical examination, ask questions about your child's health, and recommend testing/screening or vaccinations. But some parts of this visit may change the older your child gets.

Adolescents have new, adult-like physical, social, emotional, and mental health issues that the pediatrician will need to address. The specific issues the doctor discusses with your child depend on your tween's or teen's age, development, and reported lifestyle factors. The pediatrician may look for signs of puberty and talk to you and your child about issues relating to the changes of puberty (such as a female's menstrual cycle, physical changes, body odor, or concerns your child may have). 

Along with the physical examination, the pediatrician may discuss healthy body weight/body image, sexual health, physical activity, screen time/Internet safety, tobacco use, or other substance use/abuse. If you or your child feels uncomfortable about discussing some of these or other more adult-like issues with the doctor, address your concerns with the pediatrician before the visit. 

While some topics may seem too mature for your teen, issues such as safe sex and substance use are often essential to an adolescent's overall health. Parents who have specific beliefs about discussing sex, substance use information, or any other topic can work with the pediatrician to find a safe, comfortable way of addressing these issues.

Contact a pediatrician for more information.