Cut the Apron Strings: The Doctor Needs 5 Minutes Alone With Your Teen

After talking with a few people, I realize I may be in the minority here.

Sometimes a doctor or nurse has your child’s best interest in mind and helicopter parents need to back off and let the professionals do what they are trained to do. A doctor talking with a teenager alone may be in everyone’s best interest.

There is a large part of me that believes you know your child better than anyone else does. There is also a part of me that realizes that many parents don’t know when to cut the apron strings and let the child start to take responsibility of themselves. The exact age and circumstance may vary, but at some point, children need to learn how to become responsible adults and take care of themselves. That’s the goal – to raise self-sufficient children.

What would you think if you saw this sign at your child’s doctor’s office?

doctor note

A Michigan mother says when she asked about it she was told, “there was a new policy that would allow a child to access his/her medical records online and the child would be allowed to block a parent from viewing the website. The nurse would also inform my children that the doctor’s office is a safe place for them to receive information about STDs, HIV and birth control.”

Which part of that might be upsetting? Personally, I might be a little upset that I would have to call the doctor’s office to find out the medical information regarding my child if he blocked me from viewing the website. The talk about STDs, HIV and birth control wouldn’t bother me a bit.

I was surprised to read that the mother’s response was, “it was clear that these people were angling to undermine my parental authority.”

They want to have a medical conversation with her 17-year-old daughter and she feels they are angling to undermine her parental authority. Are you kidding me?

She goes on to say, “Make sure this is crystal clear: what they want to do is talk to your child about sex and drugs (maybe rock and roll – who knows?) without your input. Is it really such a stretch to imagine that a doctor who does not value abstinence before marriage would encourage your daughters – as young as 12! – to receive birth control? Is it really such a stretch to imagine a nurse telling a young boy – because a 12-year-old boy is a BOY – that she will give him condoms so he can be “safe”? Is this what you want told to your children without the ability to filter the info through your world view?”

Yes, it IS a stretch to believe a doctor is going to bully your daughters or sons into receiving birth control. It’s my parental responsibility to talk with my children about sex and birth control. If I do my job, 5 minutes alone with a medical professional isn’t going to be surprising or shocking to them at all.

Doctors need accurate information about their patients. If asked in front of their parents, many sexually active teens may lie to the doctor to avoid the parent knowing. If the teenager tells the doctor they are sexually active, the doctor will talk to them about being safe.

If we think children won’t have sex without birth control, we are naïve. If we believe children will listen to everything we tell them, simply because mommy and daddy said so, we are foolish. If we believe all children will talk freely with a physician, even though their judgmental parents are around, we are crazy.

They will have sex when they feel they are ready. Without honest talks about birth control, the risks of pregnancy and STD’s are much higher. This isn’t a conversation that needs you to filter the info through your world view. Facts are facts. Your world view won’t change that.

Facts are facts

I’m not saying a parent’s view isn’t important. It is important. Parents should teach their children their beliefs. Parents have all night, all week, all year to share their views with their child. That’s what parenting is all about. The parents know what is being discussed between the doctor and their child. They don’t need to hear the actual conversation between the doctor and child, though.

Even a child who is close with their parents might not feel comfortable telling the parents they are sexually active. That doesn’t mean the teenager doesn’t need to know about birth control options or the risks of contracting an STD.

If this mother feels that 5 minutes alone with a medical professional would undermine morals and values she has instilled in her daughter for 17 years, how can she ever let her daughter out of her site? She’d crumble under actual peer pressure.

I have taken both my boys to every doctor’s appointment they’ve ever had. About the time they develop pubic hair, I’m not sitting in the exam room with the boys during the “turn your head and cough” portion of the physical. I’m sure it would be very awkward and uncomfortable for them. I respect them enough to know sometimes I need to step out of the room.

As a female, I would have been mortified if my mother would have been in the room with me the first time I had a pap smear. Honestly, any pap smear, not only the first one. There are some things better done alone.

Finally, that mother says, “Perhaps if more of us stood up for our rights as parents, this ludicrous undermining of parental authority might end.”

Ludicrous undermining of parental authority? The “child” in this case is 17. When is she able to finally learn how to talk to her doctor about her issues without her mother hovering over her, making sure what is talked about is parent approved?

When is it time to cut the apron strings and allow the child to grow up a little? 12 years old and 5 minutes alone with a doctor to discuss health issues the child may not discuss with the parent doesn’t sound that far off to me. What do you think?

22 Thoughts on “Cut the Apron Strings: The Doctor Needs 5 Minutes Alone With Your Teen

  1. Great post. A child having 5 minutes alone with a medical professional is NOT something for a parent to be scared of, if they’re doing their parenting right. 5 minutes with ANYBODY shouldn’t be able to sway your child’s general judgment/morality, but it might give them the time to ask an embarrassing question or two of someone with knowledge and expertise. Hear hear!
    Sarah (est. 1975) recently posted…pelvic organs? come on down! (part 4 of 4)My Profile

  2. I 100% agree. No matter how close you are to your kids, they aren’t going to tell you everything. You may talk to them about everything…drinking, smoking, doing drugs, having sex….they are still not going to tell you all their experiences they may have with drinking, smoking, doing drugs and having sex.
    I want my kids to be healthy and safe. I hope they feel comfortable enough to talk to me, but if they don’t, I want them to have someone they CAN talk to without worrying.
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  3. Doug in Oakland on June 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm said:

    Trying to ignore the parts of the world that scare her won’t make those parts cease to exist for her or her daughter. It may in fact make her daughter less prepared for the inevitable meeting she will have in her own life with those parts of the world. Doctors can’t do their jobs unless their patients are candid and honest with them, and many domestic relationships can interfere with that. At my last doctor’s appointment (at the county medical center) I was asked by a check-in nurse, privately, whether I felt safe in my home, or whether I felt abused or taken advantage of. I told them that I was OK and thanked them for actually caring. Medical professionals can do some wonderful things if you let them.

    • I agree. When we try to shelter kids too much, we are actually doing a disservice to them. We shelter them from learning to care for themselves. If we don’t allow them to make decisions and mistakes while we are there to help them, what happens when they are off on their own?

      It’s great when medical professionals ask patients questions privately. It gives the patients a chance to open up and be honest with them.
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…Cut the Apron Strings: The Doctor Needs 5 Minutes Alone With Your TeenMy Profile

  4. I completely agree with you. There are things that I would never have asked a doctor in front of my mother when I was a teenager! The doctor can’t possibly do the job of protecting your teen’s health if he can’t get the full picture of what is going on. If a parent is doing their job and talking openly to their kids about their beliefs about sex and everything else for that matter, then a five minute talk with the doctor isn’t going to damage their fragile little psyches.
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  5. Teens need to be well versed in the information LONG before it comes up. I do not understand people who are more afraid that their kid will hear the word “sex” than that they will start having sex without understanding the ramifications. Parents would be wise to realize that they are better off introducing these topics BEFORE the surly teenage oppositional attitudes kick in. So the concept of safe sex is as basic and ingrained as the concept of wearing a seatbelt or a bike helmet.

    Stopping in from Bloppy Bloggers.
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  6. Dana on June 8, 2014 at 11:48 am said:

    A teenager who doesn’t understand how their own reproductive system works is in danger of becoming an adult who doesn’t understand how their own reproductive system works, and that knowledge is just as important in marriage as it is outside of it. How do these right-wing (let’s not gild the lily) parents think their sons and daughters are going to learn this stuff… from the sons’ and daughters’ own spouses? Who presumably also never learned anything about reproduction or STDs or any of the rest of it since it was “against a worldview” for them to get that info? Great. Wonderful. THAT will work SWELL.

    When I was a kid I was a huge bookworm so my parents understood that was the best way to reach me with a birds-and-bees conversation. One of the books they gave me was aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds. If parents had The Talk with their kids in that age range, it wouldn’t matter what a Michigan doc said to them at age 13 and up. People are usually fairly protective of what they learn in early home life. But at least they’d also be exposed to the medical facts at some point, if subject to a law like Michigan’s.

    • Thank you for this. Good points.

      I think many parents are embarrassed to have the “sex talk” with their kids. I thought I’d be embarrassed to talk to mine too. I’ve realized that it’s not just one big sex talk where you dump a bunch of information on them and run away. Several talks, small doses, what they need to know, when they need to know it, age appropriate for the specific child – my kids are still young, but we’ve had a few talks that would fall into that category already. I found it it wasn’t really the big deal I thought it would be. And, I want them to be as comfortable as possible coming to me in the future with questions too. If they don’t want to talk with me or their dad, then they certainly will have the option of talking to a doctor alone.
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…George Will: The “Sexual Assault is a Coveted Status” DouchebagMy Profile

  7. Dana on June 8, 2014 at 11:50 am said:

    …And while we’re at it, you know what else a kid needs? Basic childrearing skills. How many young parents by now have had to lose their children in some way because no one ever taught them about child care. It’s not instinct at this point and there are 20- and 30-somethings (and sometimes even older) who also don’t know because we think they’ll just learn on the job. If nothing else, no matter what they intend to do with it, sign your kids up for Red Cross babysitting classes.

  8. Kathryn Case on June 10, 2014 at 11:55 am said:

    I laugh at the naivete of some parents. Kids these days are way more cognizant of what is going on in the world in spite of their parents.

    My 14 year old son broke his tailbone in a biking accident and I explained on the way to the doctor’s office that the PA (very young, very cute female) would be examining him and would probably need to do a rectal exam to determine the extent of the injury. When it came time to excuse myself from the room, I heard him ask her if she could just explain the procedure and he would call in the results himself. All three of us cracked up laughing and the tension was broken!

    People, give your kids some credit.

  9. And I think you just made an excellent point. Give your children credit–they are much smarter and more aware than what many are given credit for. My kids learned about puberty and sex long before Little Johnny at school had the chance to break the news (which is how I found out about sex). They also know how decisions they make regarding sex can affect their entire lives. My kids and I are pretty open with each other but I would very much support them talking with someone else if they felt more comfortable.
    On the subject of doctors pushing birth control…Some drug companies give kickbacks for prescriptions written and some doctors DO push medications. Knowing your doctor and finding one you trust would be the best seems like the best solution to me.
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  10. My problem with the HIPAA regulation is that is actually says that once a child turns 12, parents have no rights to any information about their medical records, diagnoses or treatment. What if your 12 yr. old is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, refuses treatment, and you know ZERO about it? Should your CHILD be making life and death decisions at 12, without your input?

    As for the sex related information and discussions, we started talking about those things, in age appropriate ways, at age 4, so it was never a big deal in our house.

    • I agree that 12 is far too young for HIPPA to provide full privacy from parents. HIPAA guidelines such as that would be a whole different topic/issue since there are some valid parts, but if, in fact, 12 years old is the magic age where parents aren’t given their child’s medical information, that is ridiculous. I think I’ll have to do some research on that before my son turns 12 for sure.
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  11. This is a subject close to my heart. My family is full of ultra conservative and pro-life. While I don’t share those views, I can understand their views are a result of their religious beliefs and go on my merry way, but I can guaran-fucking-tee you that I wasn’t going to raise my children the same way.

    I stopped going in to the room with my daughter when she began taking birth control at 14. (She started her cycle at 9 yrs old). Because I was a teen mom, I wanted to ensure I did everything I could possibly do to set both my son AND daughter up for success, and having a pregnant teen would not have been what I considered a ‘success’. We had very, very specific conversations with our children about sex from a very early age.

    I remember my mom FREAKING out that we’d allowed my daughter to get on birth control at 14– but that little girl is now 21 years old, a full-time college student, a store manager at a clothing store, and living on her own. My son is also out on his own, working for a great company. We avoided all those nasty teenage snags because we stayed involved, educated the kids very clearly, and set consequences for actions we didn’t approve of. But, I digress.

    Though I can be loud and obnoxious, I’m also very much an introvert. My daughter is very private and shy, and I felt like those conversations with her doctor were very important, and also, private. I knew if there was some bad shit going down, my daughter would talk to me about it, but I certainly did not need to know every detail she had going on.

    I dunno– this topic is close to my heart. Just say no to teenage pregnancy. :)
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