Making the Move to Adult Care

​​Pediatric healthcare transitioning
Written with Daniel McCrimons, MD, a Hill Physicians Pediatrician in Sacramento.

As a parent, you spend your time preparing your child for the adult world. But you probably haven’t spent much time preparing them for the adult healthcare world. 

At a certain point, you won’t be there to hold their hand at every healthcare interaction. So it’s up to you and your child’s doctor to make sure your child is ready to make their own decisions and be their own advocate. 

The good news is that it isn’t rocket science. “Preparing your child for the transition to adult healthcare is just like preparing them for the responsibilities of life,” says Daniel McCrimons, MD, a pediatrician with Hill Physicians Medical Group in Sacramento. Here are three key things to keep in mind as you do so.

Keep your child involved from an early age
“Parents should be actively talking with their children throughout childhood so that conversations around healthcare are open, honest and continual,” says McCrimons. For example, answering health questions honestly and turning healthcare interactions into teaching moments are easy ways to begin preparing your child at an early age. 

Focus on building independent skills 
“Thinking openly and clearly, solving problems, knowing how to face a challenge and making good decisions are all skills kids need in life and in the healthcare world,” says McCrimons. If they have these skills in their toolbox, they’ll be more than prepared to make the transition. Your child should also be comfortable talking to a healthcare provider about their needs, questions and concerns. Depending on maturity level, they’ll likely be ready to have these conversations without you when they are 14. 

Talk to your child’s provider with your child
The right time to start the transition process depends on the maturity of your child, but McCrimons says that it should be appropriate at around 15 or 16 years old. You, your child and their doctor should all be on the same page about the transition. He recommends starting the conversation using these three questions. 

How long can we stay in your practice?
Do you have any recommendations for a physician that will meet my child’s needs?
After we leave, can we call you back with questions since you know my child the best?

As your child starts to learn and become more comfortable, you can give them the space to take charge. By their senior year in high school, they should be ready to take on the responsibility of making their own decisions (both in life and in healthcare) — including the decision on when they are ready to attend healthcare appointments by themselves.