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Will the health professional share information with me if my child goes in alone to their appointment?

Children and youth who are capable of making their own decisions have a legal right to decide what information will be shared with their parent or guardian. They may ask that their medical information remain confidential (private).

There is no set age for requesting confidentiality. It depends on whether the health care provider believes that your child understands the benefits and risks of their decision, and it’s in your child’s best interest.

Your child’s health care provider will ask and get your child’s agreement on what information can be shared with you. You need to know that health care providers must tell you if they are concerned about your child’s safety. For example, if they believe there is suicide risk or abuse, they must alert you.

It can feel scary and frustrating when you don’t know exactly how your child is doing. But, if your child is willing to talk to their health care provider about what is going on for them, that’s a good sign. It’s important for your child to build a strong connection with their health care provider. Your child may be more honest about what is really going on if they trust that what they talk about stays between them.

Remind your child that:

  • telling the truth to their health care provider is not going to get them in trouble
  • you will not ask for details of those conversations
  • you are always available to listen if they want to talk

Help your child understand why some information about their safety may need to be shared with you, so you can help them.

Some suggestions when you feel shut out: 

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  • You can ask the health care provider “what is the reason you won’t speak to me about my child’s health?” They may say that your child has asked them for this privacy. You can still ask for suggestions on how to help your child and how to support them.
  • You can provide input to the provider so they have a full picture of what is going on, even if they can’t disclose information to you. They should welcome your insight. For example, you can share – “we’ve had a particularly bad week”, or “I want to let you know what’s going on…” at the beginning of the appointment. You can ask to make your own appointment for a different time if your child resists you being there. Sometimes a phone call or an email is all that’s needed.
  • There may be a point when your child is ready to share information about their appointments to you, or another trusted adult. You might ask something like:
    • “I know that you value your privacy and I respect that. I want to support you the best way that I can. If I had some information, I may know what could be helpful or not. You don’t need to tell me everything if you don’t want to, but do you think you would be able to share some information? Can we talk about this a bit more?”
    • “I understand that you don’t want to share with me. Is there another adult you would be comfortable with? Would it be ok for them to pass important things on to me – with your permission?”
    • “I would like us to speak together with the health care provider. Can we do that?”
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If your child does share some information with you, it is important that you do not judge or be negative about what they have shared. Thank your child for trusting you with the information and say you understand how hard that must have been for them.

Featured Resource:

Children and consent to healthcare (People's Law School)

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