Should I insist on being in the exam room when my child visits a doctor? Recently I took my 14-year-old daughter to our family doctor for a check-up and was told by the office staff that I would need to stay out. To be honest, my husband and I are concerned about messages my daughter may receive, especially regarding sex, that may run counter to our Christian worldview.
Your question isn't without merit given the challenge today's parents face from institutions and individuals once considered to be their advocates. And where health care visits are involved, we can understand why you might be concerned about your daughter receiving information from someone who has the potential to undermine the values you've attempted to instill in her. Considering the kinds of topics that can come up in a conversation with a doctor, many parents might feel uncomfortable at the thought of being excluded from the discussion. That's why a key element in addressing this matter is to examine your relationship with your daughter and to invest time and energy into strengthening those ties. This will make it more likely that she will look to you for guidance about spiritual matters and life choices, now and in the years to come. That includes coming to you for information about sex and sexuality. If you haven't already done so, take this opportunity to engage your daughter on the topic of sex and make sure she understands God's design for human sexuality. Focus on the Family offers a number of great resources that are designed to help parents speak confidently with their children about sex.
As for your specific inquiry as to whether you should be present in the exam room, we referred your question to members of our Physicians Resource Council, a panel of experts who assist Focus with medical and health-related matters. Several of these physicians related what many health care professionals report regarding adolescent visits; that is, when parents leave the room, many teens feel freer to talk about things they might never mention with mom or dad present. These aren't necessarily troubling secrets or problems (although they are likely sensitive matters to the teen), but often include issues that, for one reason or another, teens don't feel they can talk about with anyone else. In such cases, a good doctor has a tremendous opportunity to provide wise counsel and guidance to a confused young person.
For this reason, we believe it is crucial that you seek out a health care professional who shares your Christian values. You may want to check with the Christian Medical and Dental Associations for a referral to someone in your area. Talk to your daughter's doctor and discuss your concerns candidly but respectfully, particularly with regard to sexuality. At the very least, he or she should be willing to honor your views and values. We should add that one of the benefits of building a relationship with your daughter is that this will increase the likelihood that she will discuss things with you that she talks about with her doctor.
On a related note, when it comes to potentially embarrassing procedures such as a pelvic or genital exam (an experience that can be awkward for many adults as well as teens) or discussions involving the private parts of the body, some adolescents (especially girls) may want mom in the room if the health care professional is of the opposite sex. In other cases, a teen might feel embarrassed with a parent present. You would do well to discuss this possibility with your child in advance of the doctor visit so that you can both consider your teen's feelings on the matter.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss your concerns with a member of our Counseling staff, please feel free to give us a call.
Christian Medical & Dental Associations