What’s Up, Doc? Making the Leap from Pediatric to Adult Care

Your child’s pediatrician has probably known your son or daughter for a very long time. In fact, he or she may have been your child’s doctor since the day your baby was born. However, as children become young adults, it’s time to start thinking about moving on to an adult doctor. These doctors are also known as family physicians, family doctors, or primary care providers.

Many experts recommend making this transition between ages 18 to 21. Knowing what you can expect to happen during this transition can help it go more smoothly for everyone.

What to Expect

One of the biggest changes that occurs when young adults start seeing a family physician is they’ll be expected to start taking much more responsibility for their health and medical care than before. They’ll be more involved in making decisions about their health. They’ll also be expected to take a more active role in their care. This may mean following their doctor’s instructions, taking their medications, making appointments for screenings or follow-up appointments, and other health-related tasks that you may have done for them in the past.

Another big change is the fact that they’ll start seeing a new doctor altogether. Even if your teen is in perfect health, it’s still important to make sure he or she finds a new doctor. Family doctors don’t just treat health problems—they’re trained to prevent them in the first place.

Getting to Know You

One of the best places to start when helping your child find a new doctor is to ask family and friends if they have any recommendations. Once you have a few suggestions, call their offices to gather some information. Important questions to ask include:

  • Do they take your insurance?

  • What are their office hours? Make sure they fit with your child’s school or work schedule.

  • Which hospital does the doctor use? Check that it’s one near you.

  • How many doctors are in the practice? You want to make sure a doctor is always available even if your child’s regular doctor isn’t in the office that day.

You may be surprised to learn that young adults can schedule an appointment to meet and talk with a doctor. This way, they can make sure that they feel comfortable with him or her. Beforehand, discuss with your teen important things to look for during the appointment. For example, make sure that the doctor takes the time to answer all their questions and they don’t feel rushed. Also, the doctor should explain things in a way that a teen or young adult can understand. This will become especially important when it comes to discussing health-related information.

It’s important to let your child know that it’s OK if he or she doesn’t feel exactly the same way about the new doctor as he or she did about the pediatrician. However, if it’s someone your child trusts and feels comfortable with, then over time they can build a relationship that’s just as strong.


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