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How Can I Take Charge of My Own Medical Care?

I feel ready to take care of my own medical appointments and handle my own paperwork (I'll show it to my mom if it needs her signature). But my mom won't let me do this, and when I ask her why she says, "Because I'm the mom." I think she is afraid that if she lets me do this, I'll get into trouble. But I know when to ask for help and I want to learn how to do this stuff.
- Adrianna*

Doctors recommend that we start getting involved in our medical care during our teens. It helps us be prepared to handle things as adults.

Still, some parents don't feel comfortable with the idea. The reasons why depend on the individual parent, of course. But most of the time, parents don't want to let go because they care and feel responsible. They know how complicated the health care system can be.

It's great that you're already talking with your mom about managing your medical care. Here are some tips and ideas for your conversations (these tips work just as well with dads too!):

Start by asking for your mom's help and guidance. Sometimes, we can be so eager to learn and take charge that the person trying to teach us doesn't feel needed anymore! Your mom probably has to ease into this just like you do. It's a learning experience for her too.

One thing you can do is show that you still value her support and knowledge: Say, "Mom, I know you've been doing this for me all my life. Now that I'm older, I want to learn more about managing my health. Could you help explain what's involved in making an appointment and filling out paperwork?"

Next, suggest that you handle a specific task. For example, say: "I'd like to try making an appointment myself next time so I can get confident about handling that kind of thing on my own."

Your doctor may have already seen you alone without a parent in the room. If you feel comfortable doing so, you might want to include your mom in some appointments so she feels more involved. For example, if you need to get a test or procedure, you could say, "I want you to go with me for this visit. I need your moral support!" This shows your mom that you will ask for help if you need it.

Keep the conversation going. Make talking about your health more than just a one-time thing. Show you really want to learn by asking additional questions. For example, ask about injuries or illnesses you had as a child. Or find out about health problems that run in your family (things like allergies or migraines, for example). Knowing about these can sometimes help you gain insight into your own health issues.

Show you're serious. Read up on things like health insurance and medical records. Ask questions. For example, "Hey, Mom, could you help me understand deductibles?" Or, "I'd like to learn more about health insurance. How long can I stay on our family plan and when will I need to get my own?"

Be open about what's bothering you. If your mom still won't let you get involved in your medical care, have an honest conversation with her. Ask what she's worried about. Gently let her know that when she doesn't offer details (like saying, "Because I'm the mom!"), it means you are left guessing about why and it feels like she doesn't believe in your ability to learn.

Be patient. It can sometimes seem like parents stay too involved in our lives. Chances are, they're doing it out of love. So try not to get upset if things don't go as fast as you hoped. This isn't just about you learning the ropes; it's also about your mom getting the reassurance she needs to let you take charge. So keep talking — and learning!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: March 2011

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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