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Good 2 Go
Good 2 Go

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Parenting “Teens” with Special Health Care Needs

Brain development affects the way your teen thinks, acts (or doesn’t act), and perceives information and feelings. The adolescent brain is still developing—in fact, your child’s brain development doesn’t finish until between age 20 and 25.  The last thing to develop is ‘executive function’—being able to plan ahead, resist impulses, tune out distractions and other skills—all of which are needed to manage one’s health care. These skills are used to make and keep appointments, take medications that have uncomfortable side effects and balance having a chronic condition with having a fulfilling life.  

These health care management skills develop best with guided practice. As a parent, your goal should be to gradually end your role as a direct care provider. It is time for your teen to learn how to manage his or her own life while you continue to provide emotional support. Help your teen to take charge, but let them know you are there to support them.

Be your teen’s advocate! Help your teen understand the implications of their health condition and treatment on their current and future health. Remember, the future is a hard concept for teens to understand. Be patient and repeat your message in different ways (without nagging!)

How Can Parents Help Teens Prepare for Transition to Adult Health Care?

• If you are asking yourself the question, ‘how do I know if my teen is ready to leave?’ complete the Transition Readiness Checklist – Parent Version . There is a Readiness Checklist for Teens too.

• Suggest your teen and their health-care provider work together to create an individualized MyHealth Passport , a wallet-sized card summarizing your teens’ important health information.

• During medical appointments, encourage your teen to spend some time alone with their health-care providers. Solo interactions  are a good way for your teen to develop important skills such as asking their own questions, speaking about confidential information and being comfortable talking with health-care providers on their own.  

MyHealth 3-Ssentence Summary . Encourage your teen to develop a quick summary that includes their age, diagnosis and brief medical history, treatment plan and their questions or concerns for each visit.

• Download or ask your child’s health-care provider for a copy of the booklet: Getting Ready for Adult Care . It contains lots of tips and useful information about what to expect and how to prepare for health care in adult hospitals and other settings. Speak with your teenager about some of your own experiences in the adult health care system.

• Encourage your teen to get organized before health care appointments, to book their own appointments, and to manage their own specific health care needs (for example, learn about their medications, why they take them and how to get a refill or how to track and report symptoms).

• Encourage your teen to speak up to get what they need. You have been their advocate for a long time; now it is time for your teen to put these skills into practice for themselves.

• Give your teen chores and tasks within the family. Chores help your teen develop self-management skills, further independence and responsibility—all skills that are vital for healthy adult development.

• Remember that your teen is watching you at all times. Be a good role model.

Click here for a copy of Parent Tip Sheet: Adolescents in Transition  for additional ideas and resources.