For Parents & Guardians

Looking after the health and well-being of a child in today’s complex health care system is a big job and one that has its own set of challenges. Here are tips for parents and guardians who have:

Babies or Young Children
Children Old Enough to See the Doctor Alone
College-Age/Young Adults Managing Their Own Health Care

If You Have… Babies and Young Children. Parents, especially new ones, often find themselves bombarded with information and advice about their child’s health. Here are some tips to help sort through and manage it all:

Always contact the doctor if you are unsure of something (such as how to clean a wound), notice any changes in your child’s health (such as sudden weight loss), if your child is not getting better, or has a problem with medication.

Talk with your doctor before you give medication to make sure it is safe, that you understand its risks and benefits, how much to give and how to give it (for example: with food).

Try to find a doctor for your child you can trust and who is willing talk with you about studies, research and what you hear in the news. Also, follow Say Ah!’s tips for Online Research, and always make sure you are getting fair and balanced information.

Speak up on behalf of your child any time you have questions or if something doesn’t feel right, isn’t safe, etc. And be clear about your family’s values, beliefs, preferences and priorities, and talk them over with the doctor.

Track Your Child’s Health right from the start by creating a health record. Start with a copy of your baby’s birth certificate and birth records including weight, height and blood type. Keep updating it!

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If You Have… Children Old Enough to See the Doctor Alone. Help your child become an informed, empowered patient! Teach them what you know as outlined here in the Patients & Caregivers section and review the information with them. Here are some additional tips:

Teach your child the basics about the health care system and its lingo (like how insurance works), key words and concepts (such as referral, risks & benefits), and the logistics of medications (how prescriptions and refills work, labels, inserts, understanding studies, generics, etc.).

Help your child become an informed consumer by explaining the economics of the system, and how his/her health care is paid for and what to do if it isn’t.

Make sure your child knows what is an emergency and what to do if it is. You can ask your child’s doctor to help explain the difference between routine care and when to call 9-1-1.

Prepare Them for Doctor’s Visits. Take time with your child to review his/her health record, medication list, etc. Make sure that s/he understands the important stuff like what medication they are taking and why, how to describe symptoms, and that it’s okay to ask the doctor and speak up for themselves.

Make sure your child knows where you will be during the doctor visit. Try to leave a phone number where you can be reached.

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For Parents & Guardians of College-Age/Young Adults Managing Their Own Health Care. Once your son or daughter goes away to college or is living on his/her own, s/he will have to manage their health care without you. Say Ah! strongly suggests that you go over the tips in the Patients & Caregivers section with them. In addition, make sure s/he:

Knows when to get care, and what is an emergency, and where to go in either case.

That it is important to establish a relationship with a particular doctor or facility, especially if s/he has a chronic illness or problem that requires regular or on-going care.

Has info about the health facility s/he will be using. (Location and how to get there, hours, services offered, what insurance they take, co-pays, by appointment or walk-in, etc.), and to keep the contact info with them at all times (bookmark it, put it in their phone, and give it to you).

What their insurance plan covers, how to use it, and what to do if they are under- or uninsured.

And when in doubt… Encourage your child to contact you for help and advice, and keep in touch with with you about their health.

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