When your children enter into a teenage phase, they will undergo both physical and emotional health transformation. This onset of changes could baffle them and they might feel embarrassed or apprehensive to talk about their feelings openly with parents. They are most likely to discuss it with their peers, but it leaves them vulnerable to incomplete or inaccurate information.
So, here is a handy guide for you to address your teen’s health matters.
Growth Spurts and Puberty Changes
Don’t let the puberty changes and growth spurts be a surprise for your adolescents. Explain to them that this is a very normal thing to happen at their age. A boy will experience enlargement of testicles and sudden growth in height by a few inches or a change in voice. A girl’s breasts will start developing and she could get her first period. Both boys and girls will see common changes like the growth of hair in under arms and pubic hair.
While the growth spurts and puberty milestones vary across teens, you may want to visit a doctor if you have any concerns regarding your teen’s development. For example, more than 90% of girls get their periods by the age of 15. If your daughter has crossed this age and hasn’t had her periods yet, a doctor would be able to give you the right diagnosis. You should also consult a doctor if her periods are painful, heavy or irregular.
It is also advisable to check with your doctor if your teen needs any vaccination or immunization shots.
Physical Health and Fitness
As children enter their teen years, their interest in physical activities and healthy habits begin to decline. However, given that this is the age when their body and hormones are going through critical changes, physical health and fitness should get more priority.
Do make sure that your teen gets at least 1-2 hours of physical activity a day. Give them a healthy diet. Ask them to follow a consistent sleep schedule and get at least 7-8 hours of good sleep.
Other than the basic hygiene habits, your teens now need to take special care to accommodate the changing needs of their body. You can tell them to clean their genitals, armpits, feet and other sweat glands with extra TLC during the bath. They should change their clothes, especially socks, handkerchiefs/towels and undergarments at least once a day or frequently when they get smelly or dirty.
You should teach your daughters about menstrual hygiene. She should avoid using any scented or unfamiliar feminine products without consulting you. If she develops an allergy or infection down there, she should immediately visit a doctor with you. Boys should learn about shaving their facial hair and cleaning their bodily fluids properly.
You can even allow your teens to use paediatrician/dermatologist-recommended antiperspirants or skincare products.
Sex and Sexuality
It is natural for teens to get curious about romantic relationships, sex and other aspects of their sexuality. You must have honest conversations with your teen about underage sex, safe sex, consent to sex, consequences of unprotected sex and teen pregnancy, sexual abuse/violence and risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV. If your teen has questions on LGBT matter, answer them truthfully without judging, criticizing or avoiding them.
When teens have proper knowledge about these issues, they can make informed and correct decisions.
Behavioural and Mental Health
Teens are susceptible to body shaming, bullying, cyber addiction, peer pressure and many other issues. If they are not able to deal with it, they may begin to face or develop anxiety, depression, mood swings, physical/mental disorders and suicidal tendencies. They may resort to smoking, drinking or drugs to cope with the situation.
Parents need to discuss the importance of behavioural and mental health from time to time with teens. If you see any deviation or abnormality in your teen’s daily routine, moods or behaviour, it should be a red flag for you. Seek professional advice if the need arises.
As parents, it is your responsibility to create an environment of trust and support for your teens. This will ensure that they feel comfortable coming to you for their health concerns. At the same time, you should also keep a close eye on your teen’s health and behaviour to be able to catch some early issues, if any.