Parents of teenagers have been asking me when the best time to transition their teen from a pediatrician to an adult physician is.

Well, if they have been seeing a family physician, this shouldn’t be an issue since a family physician cares for children and adults. However, if they have been going to a pediatrician, this can be a difficult transition. This transition is perhaps harder for the parents than it’s going to be for the teen. It will be even harder if that teen has a special health need or chronic condition.

That being said, let me share some information on transitioning teens to new doctors.

When should my teen transition?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP, children should transition to adult-oriented health care between the ages of 18 and 21. Rather than set a specific age however, the AAP suggests this change be based on a young adult’s individual needs and the ability of the pediatric or adult clinician to best meet those needs.

If you are a parent who has been taking your teen to the doctor, this is a great time to stop going. This allows your young adult to take full responsibility for their health and wellbeing as they transition to a new health care professional.

How do we choose a new doctor?

You might sit down with your teen or young adult and ask them what is important to them in selecting a new doctor.

This might be needing to see someone of the same gender. This might also be someone who is nonjudgmental and respects their views, like sexual orientation. It might be about having an office nearby or having appointment times that are convenient relative to taking college courses or working.

What to do prior to the first visit

It’s a great idea to have your teen’s medical records transferred to the new adult clinician prior to your teen’s first visit. You can ask the pediatrician to write a summary that will be helpful to the new provider. Even better, have that pediatrician talk directly with the adult health care professional that your teen is transitioning to.

If your teen is nervous about becoming an adult patient, tell them to write down a list of topics or questions they might have prior to their first visit.

Remember, if for some reason your teen does not feel comfortable with that new health care professional, be reassured their pediatrician can certainly help in finding someone else who might be a better fit.

Hopefully, tips like these will allow you and your teen to transition smoothly when it comes to transitioning their care to an adult clinician.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.

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