By K. L. Blankson, MD
It was easier when she was first born. Everything was, well, scheduled. The two -week visit. Then the 2-month visit (that 6 week gap felt like forever, didn’t it?). The first set of many scheduled immunizations. The assessment of developmental milestones. Cooing, eye contact, rolling…and then it seemed like she went straight from crawling to calling you to pick her up from the mall.
She’s 13 now, and ever so often you take her in to see the pediatrician to make sure that cold hasn’t gone to her chest, or that finger she claims got broken at basketball practice is really just sprained. Occasionally you bring her in for that required sports physical, but ever since the shot schedule lightened up, this healthy gal just rarely needs to come in. So you are a little surprised when you find yourself sitting one afternoon in the pediatrician’s office having picked your daughter up from school early because she was complaining of belly pain. A quick glance around the waiting room sends you back down memory lane: young couples cooing over their newborns, corralling their wild toddlers. You quietly say to yourself, “Ah, that used to be me.”
But your baby girl is all grown up now (well, almost, let’s not give her any ideas). What you may not realize is that your “baby” girl is looking around the waiting room asking herself, “If I’m all grown up, what am I doing in a room full of babies?” And when she gets into the exam room with her pediatrician, does this adolescent still get the “baby treatment” she’s been getting for the last 13 years? Is the doctor going to ask her about her menstrual cycle? Better yet, does the doctor ask if she is sexually active, has body image issues, or drinks alcohol? Are you in the room when these questions are asked? (And are you blushing yet?)
All of those sensitive questions are going to be asked if you’ve got a great pediatrician. And you won’t be in the room for some of them. Because they are all very relevant questions when it comes to assessing belly pain in an adolescent female. Sure, some of the questions are quite personal. Your daughter may not feel comfortable answering them in front of you. But you’d be surprised what she’ll tell a complete stranger in confidence, an adult who has taken the time to gain her trust.
That’s why I spent 3 years after becoming a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine. Because teenagers are not just big babies or tiny adults. They have unique medical and psychosocial needs that require special attention. Taking your teen to the family doctor that fills your blood pressure medicine prescription isn’t the solution. Do your teen a favor: find an adolescent-friendly pediatrician or an adolescent medicine specialist, like myself. No, we have no intention of replacing you or being your teen’s best friend. But we are expertly trained to address all your teen’s medical needs, including those issues that your teen just isn’t ready to talk about with you. Yet. Give us a couple of visits to work our magic.
The above article was written by the founders of Bright Beacon. www.BrightBeacon.org exists to provide a safe place on the internet for parents of children with medical needs to meet, share their stories, discuss their questions, and support one another through good times and bad. Bright Beacon was created by co-founders, Dr. Kwabena Blankson MD and Dr. Matthew Moore MD.
Dr. Blankson is married and the proud parent of two beautiful daughters ages 4 and 19 months. He completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard College and received his medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine. After finishing his residency in pediatrics, he spent three years specializing in Adolescent Medicine. His interests include faith, family, music, sports, and writing. He is currently working on his first novel, an adventure cookbook, for young adult readers.
Dr. Moore is married and the proud parent of four boys ages 13, 7, and twin 4 year olds. He completed his undergraduate degree at the United States Naval Academy and then received his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at “the President’s Hospital” in Bethesda, Maryland. After completing an internship in pediatrics he has been an attending physician in a family practice clinic near his home. His interests include faith, family, serving inner city youth, sports, and anything involving the beach.