• Learn more about the process of transition in health care. Ask your teen's primary care provider (PCP) and specialty providers about how they handle transition from pediatric to adult-oriented medical care.
  • Talk to your teen about his or her condition in words your child can understand. Help your teen find a good way to explain it to others. Look up information together about your teen's condition (at the local library or on the Internet). You can also read through this book together with your teen.

  • Talk about what it means to grow up with a disability or chronic condition. Even though you haven't got all the answers, it may help to have the conversation.

  • Teach your teen what to do in case of an emergency (see Chapter 4).

  • If it is safe to do so, teach your teen to take his or her own medications. Review the names and dosages of medications often.

  • Teach your teen the names of all health care providers and how to contact them.

  • As your teen gets older, encourage him or her to talk directly to health care providers-and to ask questions. As the parent, this may be hard at first. So, try staying in the waiting room for part of the office visit while your child sees the provider alone. You can always talk to the provider at the end of the visit or by phone afterwards. (See Teen Tips: Communicating with Health Care Providers )

  • Think about whether your teen might have trouble making independent financial and medical decisions when he or she turns 18.If yes, learn about legal guardianship, conservatorship, and health care proxy. These are legal processes that give a parent or legal guardian the right to control property and make medical decisions. Talk to your teen's primary care provider (PCP) about these issues before he or she turns 18. (See Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Health Care Proxy in the Glossary.)

  • Call a Member Services Representative at your teen's health plan to ask about what happens when he or she turns 18. Your teen may need to meet certain qualifications to stay on the plan.

  • Talk to your teen about other health issues that come up at this time, such as:

    • Healthy eating and body image

    • Relationships and sexuality

    • Smoking, alcohol, and drug use

  • Ask your teen's (PCP) for advice on how to speak to your teen about these issues.

  • Encourage your teen to take more responsibility for his or her health. For example, have your teen fill out this checklist. It asks about important tasks that your teen should do to help keep track of his or her health care. Talk about the answers together. If your teen answers "no" to any of these questions, help your teen to start doing these tasks. If needed, ask your teen's PCP for help.

  • Encourage your teen to attend educational "team" meetings at school. Include health care skills in your teen's Individualized Education Program (IEP) as goals, if applicable. Also, ask the educational "team" to help with transition planning. Remember that special education services end for everyone at age 22.

Tips

  • Ask your teen about his or her relationships with health care providers. Your teen may want to keep on seeing his or her pediatric providers. Or, your teen may want to see another provider who specializes in adolescent and young adult health. Sometimes a teenager wants a change so he or she can have a more independent relationship with a health care provider.

  • For more resources on Adolescence and Transition, visit the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health program. See links to Resources for Families and Resources for Youth.

Contact Information

Massachusetts Department of Public Health
250 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02108-4619
800-882-1435 (in Mass. only) or 617-624-6060
617-624-5992 (TTY)