*This post first appeared on The PediaBlog on June 22, 2015.
The annual checkup for a 16-year-old is important for so many reasons. For most teenagers, the process of pubertal growth and development has come, or is coming, to a close. Not only have their bodies changed into more adult forms, but so have their minds. It’s extremely important for pediatricians to monitor both physical and mental development and overall health during this time — to see where these kids have been, where they are now, and getting a sense of where they are going in the future.
It’s also a time for us to talk about school. Not just how you’ve been doing, but also where you want to go. Do you want to go to college? Have you thought about where you want to go? Do you think you know what you might like to study? Have you discussed with your parents what choices would be acceptable to them as they prepare to bankroll your college education?
It’s not too early to begin making lists of colleges you might be interested in visiting — even bookmarking schools’ websites and taking a virtual tour or two. Visit a local college or university and take a look around this summer. Schedule an informational meeting and a student-guided tour and take one now, before you really get into the whole process of listing, visiting, and choosing the colleges you will eventually apply to. This will help you start to wrap your mind around the whole college application process, giving you plenty of time to accumulate all you will need when you do apply — a good GPA from classes that challenge you (honors and AP/IB courses); participation in extracurricular clubs, sports, and other activities; planning for SAT/ACT preparation; work and community service activities; letters of recommendation from teachers you will ask next year.
Maybe you aren’t sure whether you want to go to college after graduation. This is the summer to get sure! And college isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, either. Whether you eventually go or not, you need to have a plan. Knowing that plans can change, 16 years old is a good time to start making them.
There is another important milestone — a rite-of-passage, actually — that happens in Pennsylvania at the 16-year checkup: having your pediatrician complete your driver’s permit form. In order for me to sign it, I have to review your medical history to ensure that you are mentally and physically able to operate a motor vehicle. I also need you to promise me a few things:
- You will promise to never drink and drive.
- You will promise to never ride as a passenger in a car where the driver has been drinking. Even if you yourself have been drinking, you will call for a ride or walk to where you are going.
- You will promise to drive slow through residential neighborhoods. You don’t want to run over a little kid running into the street, and you don’t want to hit your pediatrician who is out walking his dog.
- You will promise to never drive slowly in the left lane.
There is one more thing you will have to promise me before I will sign your driver’s permit form:
- You will promise not to hold, look at, or use your mobile cell phone while driving. Turn it off, keep it in your pocket or, better yet, in the glove compartment.
Tomorrow on The PediaBlog, we’ll look at some good news and bad news about car accidents and fatalities among our youngest drivers, most of whom, because of their inexperience, easily get distracted while driving. In the meantime, if your child is due for a checkup and has forms (like a driver’s form) that we need to fill out, give our offices a call (or contact us through NextMD, our patient portal) so we can schedule a visit. (Our offices are crazy-busy this time of year with checkups and forms, so don’t delay!)