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Helping Teens to Take Their Health Seriously

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Picking a compassionate pediatrician can ensure your children make good decisions throughout their entire lives.

By Dr. Samantha Lowe, Pediatrician

Babies normally see their pediatricians about 12 times during their first year of life – and that’s barring any illnesses or injuries! As your child gets older, it’s par for the course that kids will visit their physicians much less frequently, perhaps just once a year when they need a physical exam for school or summer camp. Your child’s pediatrician is your best ally when it comes to helping your tweens and teens make smart decisions about their social behaviors and health choices – so keeping that relationship strong is important, especially through their turbulent teen years.

Dr. Samantha Lowe, a pediatrician with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in Armonk, talks more about this important relationship:

Q: How important is it for children to like their pediatrician?

A lot of pediatrics is psychology. There is definitely medicine that goes into it, but it is mostly about a relationship being formed. It is important for parents of infants and young children, of course, to be comfortable with you and feel they can ask any questions that may arise. Ninety percent of my job is educating parents on what true emergencies are and what they don’t need to worry as much about.

As far as the children, the relationship might not feel as natural to them at first, but that becomes a part of our regular visits. The ability to bond comes with time and feeling more comfortable. Pediatrics is one of few specialties that spans a wide age range and that affords a real opportunity to form a trusting relationship. That is what is going to allow me to help make my patients learn to be accountable for their healthcare choices as they get older and go off to college or the next phase.

Q: How do you gain the trust of teenagers?

The teenage years are tricky for everyone – the parents, the teens, their teachers … there are so many changes that come with being a teenager that you hope they are comfortable speaking with their parents about all things going on in their lives. That unfortunately is not always the case. So, being able to connect with them as their pediatrician is also very important because it gives them a safe space to express anything that could be arising in their lives that they might not be comfortable speaking to someone else about.

Even if they don’t need to come for an actual visit, I let them know that I am always accessible to them remotely, whether by telemedicine, text or phone, and that way they are taking their own healthcare into their hands.

Q: When should a pediatric patient transition to an adult care physician?

Technically, pediatrics goes up to age 18 but at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates we see patients up to age 21, and maybe make an exception and go a little older if they are longstanding patients with us.

By around age 21, they should really go to an adult specialist. This is not always easy because of the relationship formed. Young adults are never going to spend as much time with an adult doctor that they did with their pediatrician. It may not feel natural at first, but we do what we can to support them in this transition, and the hope is that they are now empowered in their own health to be their own advocates. Once that point is reached, I know I’ve done a good job!

Dr. Lowe is a pediatrician with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, with offices in our Armonk location. To make an appointment, call (914) 849-7999.

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