As your child becomes an adolescent, the hormonal shifts common during puberty result in emotional and physical changes. This transition can feel overwhelming; your teen’s health care provider is one person who can guide you both through this journey. Yearly check-ups, also called well child care visits, are often overlooked but can provide you with the tools to successfully transition your teen through adolescence.

What about my Teen’s Behavior and Emotional Health?

Teens are surrounded by confusing messages from the media and peers who may be making unhealthy choices. This visit allows your teen the chance to discuss sensitive topics and address problems early. Some of these topics may include drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, puberty and sexuality. The majority of teen fatal and non-fatal accidents are preventable, and well care visits can provide guidance teens need to make good decisions and decrease their risks of injury.

Is a Well Care Visit a Sport Physical?

Some schools require athletes to provide proof of a physical exam before participating in sports. This exam is simply intended to evaluate one’s physical ability to safely participate in sports. Well care visits allow for a more thorough physical exam and health screen. They also provide the opportunity to address other important teen issues.

What Happens during an Adolescent Well Care Visit?

The provider will review several areas of development and preventative health topics. The provider can measure Body Mass Index (BMI) and give advice on nutrition and physical activity. Well care visits through middle and high school also provide a chance to review your teen’s vaccine history and discuss other recommended vaccines. Screening tests may be recommended (vision and hearing screening, testing for anemia, or screening for hidden infections such as tuberculosis or chlamydia).

What can I do to protect my teen from risky behavior?

Reinforcing strengths or assets can protect teens from risks and help them get READY for life. Your doctor may ask your teen about his/her strengths:

R for Relationships: Is your teen learning to form healthy relationships with peers, teachers, and coaches? Does he or she feel a sense of belonging or fit in at school and the community? Does he/she have at least one adult to go to if there is a problem to discuss? What about romantic relationships?

E for Energy to get things done. Does your teen have enough energy to get school work done and have fun? If not, why not? Is there a health problem, not enough sleep, or is depression an issue?

A for Awareness of the world and how one fits in. Does your teen have opportunities to contribute within the family, at school, in the community? Is he or she developing a sense of honesty, kindness, empathy, and generosity?

D for Decision-maker. Is your teen learning how to make healthy, independent decisions about health and behavior choices? Can you help your teen be a better decision maker?

Y for saying Yes to healthy behaviors — Does your teen eat well, sleep well, work hard, and play hard?

What about confidentiality and privacy during my teen’s Well Care Visit?

Allowing your teen the space to freely discuss any health issues with the doctor ensures that important health issues will not be overlooked due to embarrassment, shame, or fear. This also helps create confidence in your teen’s ability to handle his/her own healthcare and they transition to adulthood.