Showing up with your 15-year-old to a pediatrician’s office can be an awkward experience. A waiting room full of toddler’s toys and Sesame Street posters won’t exactly make your teen feel like they have come to the right place. As a result, many parents wonder when it’s time for their child to stop seeing the pediatrician and start seeing a doctor that handles adult patients.
Ultimately the choice is up to you and your kids, but many parents make the change from pediatrician to adult physician at age around 13. Around that age, an adolescent begins to have questions about sexual health, hormones, and other issues they may not want to discuss with the doctor they have been seeing since early childhood. Even if you don’t switch doctors, you should make sure to give your child some alone time with their doctor at around this age so they can ask certain questions they may not feel comfortable asking around you.
There are some benefits with sticking with a pediatrician through age 18. If your child has a chronic condition your pediatrician has been working on, it may take time an effort to catch up a new doctor. If your child and doctor have good rapport, you may not need to switch.
For an in-between fix, check out whether there’s an adolescent medicine specialist in your area: Google “adolescent doctor” or “young adult doctor” plus your city or town. These doctors are great for high school age kids, and can provide a stopgap between a pediatrician and an adult doctor.
A lot of kids make the switch to a new doctor at age 18 when they go to college. Having a doctor near where they go to school has a lot of practical advantages, and age 18 is a good time for soon-to-be-adults to start making their own medical choices.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making the switch from pediatrician to young adult doctor or adult doctor. What is convenient for your family and who your child feels most comfortable with should influence the choice the most. Make sure to keep your child involved in the discussion – after all, they’re the patient!