As your children get older and enter the stage of adolescence, they become more and more independent. But, as anyone who has parented teenagers will agree, that doesn’t mean that your job gets easier. At Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), we’re dedicated to keeping your kids safe and healthy throughout all stages of their development, so we’ve gathered a list of tips to help you protect your teenager.
- Although it’s popular for teens to want a suntan, do not allow them to tan purposefully or to use a tanning bed. You should also demonstrate and enforce healthy sun protection for both boys and girls. Starting these habits at a young age will help your kids to carry them into adulthood.
- For girls, explain to them that tampons should be changed every three to four hours. If a tampon is left in for too long, it can cause toxic shock syndrome with potentially very serious complications.
- Sleep is highly important for your teen’s health as well as his/her ability to perform well in school, extracurricular activities, etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8-10 hours of sleep for teenagers. But you should also keep in mind that teens’ sleep-wake cycles will shift as they get older, so they naturally stay awake later. Help your teen enjoy better sleep by creating a healthy sleep environment (lacking electronic devices like TVs and tablets), keeping them active enough during the day to tire them out by the end of the night, and making sure that they have enough time to get all their homework, chores, and other responsibilities done and still get a good night’s sleep.
- Teens are at particularly high risk for meningococcal diseases (including meningitis). Keep their pediatric vaccines up-to-date, and speak with your pediatrician at Children’s Wellness Center about the two available types of vaccines at your teen’s next well check.
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important for both the physical health and the mental health of your teen. Parents of teens need to be particularly concerned not only about their children being overweight but also about teens developing eating disorders and becoming underweight. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers a number of teen nutrition tips to help you enforce healthy eating habits.
- Maintain open communication lines with your child about drugs and alcohol. As much as you may trust your child, you can’t always control the situations they find themselves in, so help them understand why they should say “no” and how to get out of these tempting or dangerous scenarios.
- Get to know your child’s friends as well as those friends’ parents, so that you know how to make sure your child will be in a safe and supervised environment.
- Adolescence offers an entirely new set of potential dangers at home, so review our home safety tips for adolescents so you can make sure your house is a safe haven.
- When your teen begins driving, establish a set of very specific rules, including when they can and cannot drive, whether they need to text you when they arrive at their destination, where they need to put their cell phones and other devices so they don’t use them while they are driving, and more. With all of the temptation for distraction on your teen’s cell phone, one of the most important rules to establish is that your teen is not to use their phone while driving. Not only is this illegal in Georgia, but it dramatically increases the risk of an accident, especially for inexperienced drivers. Explore the websites of organizations like the Georgia Department of Driver Services and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia for more teen driving safety tips.
Mental Health Tips
- The adolescent brain is very different from that of an adult. Educate yourself about the hormonal and physiological changes your teenager is going through so that you can understand their behavior and how to communicate with them.
- Maintain a relationship with your child which makes them feel like they can talk to you candidly about anything that may be bothering them. Here are a few tips to help you communicate and build trust with your teen:
- Make a point to just listen as a friend and confidante. Turn off your “parent radar” for a moment, and listen and empathize rather than reacting too quickly with judgment or restriction.
- Don’t go too far empathizing. You want to show your teen that you understand and sympathize, but if you get overly emotional, it may just make your teenager more upset. Instead, keep calm and be the voice of reason.
- Stay rational. Teens have a tendency to over-dramatize, but when your child comes to you, he/she wants to have a calm discussion with reason, so keep an even keel.
- Be observant of your teen’s behavior and keep an eye out for signs of emotional issues, such as:
- Excessive sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy
- Significant weight loss and/or loss of appetite
- Sudden and dramatic changes in personality
- Sudden drop in academic performance
- Be mindful of your teen’s media usage. Social media in particular can have a strong impact on your teen’s physical and mental health. Talk to your teen about the difference between how things are presented online and how they are in reality. You can also take other safety tips:
- Keep your teen’s profiles “private” so they can only be seen by people your teen chooses to connect with.
- Educate your teen about personal info they should not be posting, like their phone number, address, social security number, etc.
- Keep a close eye on what your teen posts, and make sure he/she knows what content is appropriate to share and what is not.
Parenting a teenager requires a delicate balance—they still need supervision and guidance, but it’s also important that you help them learn how to be independent and prepare them for adult life. If you have any other questions about your teenager’s health and/or safety, give us a call at Children’s Wellness Center. Or, to schedule an appointment, log into our convenient pediatric patient portal, available 24/7.Tags: adolescent safety tips for parents, how to protect your teen’s mental health, information for parents about teen mental health, should my teen get the meningitis vaccine, teen health and safety tips