You’ve trusted your pediatrician since the day you chose him or her while your little one was still in the womb. From every childhood ailment and serious bumps and bruises – to simply answering all the questions you’ve had about your kiddo – your pediatrician has been there.
Now, your nearly-16-year-old is sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Glaring, as they sit surrounded by toddlers. The question, if it hasn’t happened already, finally comes:
“How much longer do I have to see a ‘kids’ doctor?”
For most parents, it’s a bit of a punch in the gut. Because deep down, you’re wondering the same thing. But you still love your pediatrician. So when is the right time to cut the cord from the pediatrician and move your child to a Primary Care Physician (PCP)?
The answers are mixed. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, it’s good to keep your child with his or her pediatrician until age 18-21. Much of the reasoning is that a pediatrician has known your child his or her entire life, has been a part of intimately knowing your child both physically and psychologically, and with insurance allowed to parents until the age of 26 – why not keep them with a physician who knows your child best for the longest period possible?
However, it’s also important to note many PCP’s are well-versed in pediatrics. Remember, you are the parent. If you’re not happy with your pediatrician, or if your child has never had a “regular” pediatrician, a PCP is an excellent choice. After all, a PCP for the entire family will know and understand the psychological well-being of every member of your family – adding your child to the mix can help your PCP understand, diagnose and prepare your child for a long-lasting healthcare relationship.
It’s also a decision often left to your pediatrician. Many pediatricians cut the cord, so to speak, for you. According to the Association of Pediatrics, most pediatricians agree 18 is the time to seek an “adult” physician. Generally, it’s a “graduation” of sorts for your child to have one last annual visit to the pediatrician at age 18. Pediatricians agree that sad as it may be for you, so too, it is for the pediatrician.
Pure and simple: Every child grows up. Pediatricians are key in a child’s health and well-being up and until he or she is a young adult. The key is to speak with your pediatrician and find out what’s best for your growing child. And, learn about your PCP as well. A smooth transfer is important. Most important – teach your child the importance of having a life-long physician.
After all, someday he or she will be that same parent with the same questions. Give them the tools to maintain healthy doctor/patient relationships for a lifetime!