As a parent, raising a teenager is not an easy task. They can be unpredictable, with frequent mood swings, restless behavior, and a general attitude of rebellion towards adults. However, the teenage years are also a critical phase for your children’s health and development.
Attitudes and habits that emerge during this age often stay with a person throughout their life. With so much change happening in their bodies, it is vital that teenagers maintain a healthy lifestyle and adopt good habits. Poor teenage health practices can make dealing with them even more difficult than normal.
In this post, we will highlight some important things you can do as a parent to ensure that your teen stays safe and healthy. If you’d like further information, you can always speak with your family doctor or a health professional with experience in family pediatrics and adolescent care. A pediatrician from VNA Health Care would be happy to address any concerns you might have.
Here are some suggestions to address child and teenage health issues:
Ensure Timely Vaccinations
Having your teenager vaccinated is probably the most straightforward thing you can do for the long-term health of your teen. There are several types of vaccinations available to children between the ages 13–19.
Flu shots should be taken annually to prevent a severe outbreak of the disease during flu season. Meningococcal disease is an infection of the lining around the brain. Teens can take two vaccines at ages 11 and 16 to protect against this deadly disease.
Another notable vaccine with lifetime benefits is the HPV vaccine. Nearly 85% of all Americans will catch HPV during their lifetime. If left unvaccinated, your teen could carry the risk of developing certain cancers in the future that are caused by strains of the HPV virus. For example, the CDC reports that 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV virus. The HPV vaccine is considered effective in lowering the risk.
If your teen has missed any of the early childhood vaccinations, there is still time. You can catch them up on shots of tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis, chickenpox, and MMR vaccines. These will protect your teen against a wide range of severe diseases. You may visit one of the qualified pediatric care providers or family physicians if you are uncertain about vaccinations for your teen.
Annual Physical Exams
Teens, both boys and girls, can benefit immensely from annual visits to their primary care doctor. Schools usually require sports/school physicals in the sixth and ninth grade. But as a parent, you must encourage teens to take their annual doctor visits seriously. You can do this by making them an appointment and also by making appointments for yourself so that they can see that it is important.
Keeping up with preventive care helps ensure that your medical history includes this too and also helps your family doctor ensure that health issues are detected early and any necessary treatment is started right away. With the rising cancer rates, particularly among younger people, visits to family doctors or pediatricians and screening tests are becoming more important than ever.
Encourage an Active Lifestyle
Most doctors would recommend that teens (and other family members too) get a minimum of one hour of physical activity each day. Helping your child meet this quota may not be an easy task, but there are several ways to do it without too much argument.
If they have any interest in sports, having your teen join a school team is an easy solution. You may also want to consider capping the amount of time they can spend in front of TV, mobile, and computer screens. Excessive use of digital screens is a common cause of less activity among teens and may adversely affect their health.
Encouraging them to do yard work and other chores, or picking up a physically demanding hobby like swimming or bike riding could also prove beneficial. For the child’s well-being, you can also plan activities for the whole family that gets them outdoors more often.
Discourage Smoking or Vaping
Tobacco smoking is one of the worst habits someone can pick up at a young age. Smoking is incredibly addictive – after a few years, it can be very hard to quit. It is also responsible for millions of deaths around the world, through cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.
While the popularity of cigarette smoking is steadily going downhill, vaping has taken its place, especially among teens. While vaping is less dangerous than cigarettes in some ways, it is not at all safe. Nicotine is still a poison and vaping brings numerous other chemicals into the body.
E-cigarettes have been linked to severe lung diseases. Additionally, the human brain continues to grow until the age of 25. Nicotine can slow down or stunt brain development if a person starts smoking or vaping it at an early age. These are all reasons enough to discourage teens from smoking/vaping.
Support a Healthy Diet and Routine
This is often easier said than done in modern family life, but teen bodies require a lot of nutrition. Apart from having regular home-cooked meals, try to make sure that they have access to healthy snacks. Limit the consumption of junk food, carbonated sodas, and sweet beverages.
Unhealthy diets can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Teens who become obese are at higher risk retaining the excess weight well into their adult years. Encourage your kids to eat more vegetables, fresh fruits, and fat-free/dairy-free foods.
Sleep is another vital element of lasting good health. While most adults can get away with 7 hours of sleep per day, teens need a lot more – along the lines of 9–10 hours. Lack of sleep can lead to poor diet, obesity, depression, and other conditions
Watch Out for Signs of Drug Habit
The teenage years are when many people experiment with recreational drugs. It can lead to a fatal downward spiral into substances like heroin, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and LSD.
Drug addiction can destroy a person’s life if left unchecked. Be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of drug abuse. It can include excessive drowsiness, sleeping more often, lack of interest in activities/hobbies they enjoyed in the past, new friend groups, and other physical symptoms like red eyes, tremors, etc.
Decisive and early intervention is essential whenever drug abuse is involved. Consider approaching a family pediatrics health professional if your teen is showing the common signs of substance abuse. VNA Health Care offers Medication-Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.
Dealing with Sexual Activity
It is natural and inevitable for teens to have a curiosity towards sex. One approach would be to encourage your teen to choose abstinence and avoid sex until they are old enough.
However, if that doesn’t seem plausible, try to speak openly with your teen. Sharing your values about family, sex, and marriage can often prove to be very effective as long as it involves honest and open conversation. The same also goes for your stance on birth control methods. Try to educate your teenager about the potential physical and emotional risks of early, unprotected sex.
Pay Attention to Your Teen’s Physical and Mental Health
Addressing your child’s physical, emotional, and social health needs is vital for their overall development during their teenage years. If you have trouble connecting and communicating with your teenager, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.
Anxiety and depression are a significant concern for youngsters of this age. If you see any potential warning signs of mental stress or depression, make sure to seek the guidance of a mental health specialist.
VNA Health Care is here for you and your teenage children. You can find help through our mental and behavioral health services for kids and teenagers.
We also offer annual physicals, vaccinations, health screenings, counseling, and other high-quality, low-cost health services to families in the Chicago suburban community. We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate services to our patients, both parents and children.
We accept all insurance plans and offer low-cost or free services to eligible patients who are uninsured. If you have any concerns about your teenager’s health or well-being, book an appointment with us today. One of our family pediatrics or family practice providers can answer any urgent or non-urgent questions and help your family stay healthy.