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Healthy Habits

Partnering with your child’s pediatrician for emotional wellness

Learn how you can work with a pediatrician to guide your child to the right support.
5 min read
March 2, 2021
Hazel Team
The editorial staff at Hazel are a diverse group of writers and professionals.

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This blog was informed by a conversation with Dr. Arash Anoshiravani. Dr. Anoshiravani is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Stanford School of Medicine and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

Your teen doesn’t seem like herself lately. She is angry because the pandemic ruined her freshman year of high school. She is worried about things she’s been seeing on the news lately. She misses spending time with her friends and family. How can you help your daughter get the support she needs to feel better?

As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to help her feel better, but you may not know where to start, how to identify what’s wrong, or she may not be willing to share her feelings with you right away. This type of situation is very common, and most parents face these challenges at some point. Fortunately, doctors and nurses who work with children are highly skilled at communicating with young people. There are many ways that parents can partner with their pediatrician to help guide their child to the right support. 

Opening up to a parent can be hard for children of all ages

The relationship between a child and a parent is very different from other child-adult relationships. For parents and children, there is often an array of expectations and emotions on both sides. Parents feel love, pride, concern, and fear for their children. Perhaps due to these emotions, children may feel uncomfortable about sharing their feelings or worried about their parents being disappointed or angry. 

It may be harder for some children to talk about their feelings to their parents than to speak to someone they’ve just met, like a doctor. While the new relationship is trusting and driven by care, it isn’t deeply emotional. 

As a parent, knowing your child has a trusted adult to open up to, even if it’s not a member of your family, can be very reassuring, and it can help take the pressure off of parents to solve every problem. There are several ways you can partner with your pediatrician to help your child express their feelings in a safe, clinical environment. 

Pre-Appointment: Sharing your concerns with your child’s doctor 

If your child isn’t sharing their feelings with you, and you would like them to speak with their doctor, you can call ahead of the appointment and let the doctor’s office know that you are noticing behaviors you’d like the doctor to ask about. 

If your child is a bit older, you may ask to speak to the doctor privately for a few minutes before the appointment (a good opportunity is while your child has their vitals taken). During the private conversation, you can share your concerns and ask your doctor to discuss how to handle these emotions with your child. You can also use this pre-appointment time with your child’s doctor to discuss ground rules for patient confidentiality and communications.

During the appointment: Building a trusting child-adult relationship

Your child’s doctor may ask them about how they are doing, and they may choose not to share their feelings. If it’s not an emergency, the doctor may not push for answers. Often, pushing children makes them uncomfortable, and they may lose interest in expressing their feelings in the future. Instead, the doctor will respect the young person’s autonomy and build a foundation for trust. They will open the door for future conversations and share that they are always welcome to reach out if they feel differently or new feelings start to bother them.

For older children (often 13 years or older), your doctor may suggest that you are not present during the conversation so that the young person can speak freely and provide an unfiltered answer. Although some parents may feel worried about their child speaking to the doctor without them, this appointment can be a good opportunity for the young person to have confidential time and practice talking to their doctor about symptoms and feelings. Many parents appreciate this opportunity and see its value, even if they are worried about the conversation.  

If you are not in the room during the visit, it’s natural, as a parent, to want to know what came up in the conversation. Although the exact age differs by state, most young people are protected by confidentiality laws, and your doctor cannot share information with you. These laws are in place so that young people have the opportunity to talk with professionals in their lives about things they may not be comfortable talking to their parents about. 

After the appointment: Understanding it takes time

Partnering with a doctor is a great first step for supporting behavioral health. When children experience depression, substance abuse, or act out for an underlying reason, it’s reasonable to want your child to feel better as quickly as possible. There is rarely a quick fix for this type of situation. It will take time and reflection to make a difference in how someone feels about themselves or the world.

If your child is emotionally struggling, please reach out to your child’s doctor. If Hazel is available in your schools, our doctors may be able to guide your family to the right resources. 

Be sure to read the next blog in our behavioral health series: Five ways to be a supportive listener for your child.

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.