Young and ‘invincible,’ teenagers often have trouble understanding that they need to think about and take care of their bodies, just like adults. Education and healthy habits are extremely important to the prevention of teenage health issues. Here are the six most common teen health issues, and some advice on preventing them.
The best way to prevent teenage obesity is to instil and practise a healthy lifestyle. An important part of this is having a healthy adult role model; parents who practise healthy eating and exercise set a great example for teens to follow. Teenagers should have 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Encourage them to eat when they’re hungry and to eat slowly. When they are looking to snack, keep plenty of healthy food available in the house. Also, try to foster the development of a positive personal identity and body image.
Like obesity, eating disorders in teenagers can be avoided by promoting a healthy body image. You can do this by emphasizing health over appearance — healthy bodies come in many different shapes and sizes. Encourage healthy eating by providing plenty of nutritious food and educating your teen about positive eating habits. Discuss media messages on body image and avoid perpetuating those messages yourself through comments on other’s weight or appearance. Most importantly, foster your teen’s self esteem! Make sure they know that your love is unconditional, respect their accomplishments and recognize their positive qualities.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Healthy sleep practices are known as “sleep hygiene.” Your teen can practice sleep hygiene by going to sleep and waking up at consistent times, not using electronics with LED screens in bed and not eating for at least two hours before sleep. If your teenager is getting enough sleep but still seems to be excessively tired, consult your doctor. Their night’s rest may be disrupted by a sleep disorder such as sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
Anxiety and Depression
As clinical mental disorders, anxiety and depression are often not preventable, but there are some methods that may help. Maintain a strong relationship with your teen by offering unconditional love and support. Praise their successes, listen to them when they speak, and encourage them to express their feelings. Encouraging an active lifestyle, promoting good sleep and keeping your teen’s screen time down can also have positive effects on your teen’s mental health.
Fostering an open dialogue with your teen about sexuality will allow them to come to you with potentially embarrassing questions. For teenage girls in particular, issues such as urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or bacterial vaginosis can rapidly worsen and become highly uncomfortable or painful if left untreated. When it comes to having safe sex, make sure that your teen is well educated when it comes to preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Going over different methods of birth control, their use and their effectiveness, will keep your teen safe when it comes to making healthy sexual choices.
Alcohol or Drug Use and Addiction
Teenage experimentation with alcohol and drugs is natural. Being aware of the signs of alcohol or drug abuse can help you detect them in your teen. Signs can include secretiveness, unusual tiredness, loss of interest in activities, bad grades, diminished physical appearance, or the smell of alcohol or smoke on hair or clothes. Dialogue is the most important method in preventing addiction — asking them if they’ve been drinking, or if they tried drugs. If they admit to using alcohol or drugs, don’t flip out. Overreacting will discourage you teenager from talking to you. Instead, talk about the potential risk factors of using alcohol and drugs. If your teen denies drug use, explain that you’re coming from a place of caring. If denials persist, consider a home drug test or turning to professional help.
Feature Image: Visual Hunt