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Medical Care for Pubescent Daughter
Q: I am a single father of a 10-year-old girl; her mother died a few years ago in a car accident. I know it is important for her to see her doctor about those "woman things," but when should I go see her doctor?
A: I am sorry to hear about the untimely death of your daughter's mother but it soundslike you are an appropriately concerned father. In general, all children should continue to see their doctor regularly. It's important for you to have an open dialogue with your daughter and her physician about all aspects of her medical care, particularly as she transitions into adulthood. I would recommend that your daughter continue to see her doctor annually -- becoming an adolescent without her mother may pose special issues forher. Should she want an opinion other than dad's, certainly it is appropriate for her to be able to raise questions or concerns with her doctor. If she feels more comfortablewith a female physician as many girls this age do, that is certainly understandable,too.
Although it may be difficult for you to speak with her about certain topics, it is always important as a parent to keep the lines of communication with your daughter open. There are educational materials that you can consult in the public library. These materials are geared toward parents as well as children and adolescents, so that you can become quite familiar with her transition into young adulthood.
I suspect that she is beginning to enter puberty (or will be soon) and would like to share the many feelings that all kids experience during this time. It's wonderful that she can do it with her father, but knowing she can discuss it with her doctor as well is important. I certainly would want her to get as much information as she can from the most accurate sources, like her father and her physician.
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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.