When Do You Hand Health Care to Kids?
I read a great blog on World AIDS Day about youth living with HIV. In it, Kate Iorpenda talks about the in-between time in health care when kids are teens, and have challenges specific to the age. For some kids, they may not have been told they have HIV if they haven’t needed treatment, so that can be a big shock.
They need to figure out how to disclose their HIV status to potential sex partners, how to have safe sex, how to talk to their doctors about taking medications and taking them consistently so they’ll work, and other issues. Iorpenda says many youth are falling between the cracks and they need better support.
Her piece made me think not only of kids with HIV, but kids with other chronic health conditions. What might the kid with diabetes face as a teen, for example? The teen years are a time when kids are working out a length of distance from parents. They have their own thoughts, friends we don’t always know, and adventures they don’t want to tell us about. It’s normal that they are figuring out who they are and who they want to be independent of us. But are they ready to do that with their health, too?
Most of us will have managed oud kids’ health care; going into the doctor’s examining room with them, and asking questions on their behalf. At what point is it best to step back and let them ask on their own? Is it a decision you make once they reach a certain age, or is it health issue based? Maybe you let them handle some things, but step in for others. The sensitive (and very important) areas like sexual health and birth control might take some careful navigation.
Helping kids develop health literacy and curiousity will serve them well for life. They need to know they can be active in learning about health issues that affect them and making health decisions. It’s a discussion you can start when your kids are young. Iorpenda’s point that kids need youth sensitive care is especially important for kids with HIV, but it’s also something for parents and caregivers to figure out how to provide all youth. Their future health could depend on it.