The teen years are probably some of the most difficult years for both parents and adolescents. In addition to normal health concerns diagnosed by a family doctor, such as diabetes and asthma, there are many health issues you should keep an eye out for with your teen. Between emotional and physical changes, peer pressure and other social concerns, teens have plenty to worry about.
Many teens are sexually active by high school, says the Mayo Clinic. With the decision to have sex comes the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or STIs. Approximately 4 million teens in the United States get an STI every year, according to Education.com. While many STIs are treatable, they are still a health risk as well as an embarrassment for teens. Many experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend talking about sex with your teens and promoting abstinence. Talk to your teen about the risk of STIs and teen pregnancy, and encourage them to wait to have sex until they feel mature enough to handle the emotional and physical consequences that come with that decision.
A 2010 study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showed one in five teens were affected by some type of mental disorder, enough so that the disorder led to difficulty functioning. Some signs of a mental health issue include feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, very angry or very worried, feeling grief for an extended time after a loss, use of alcohol or drugs, a decline in academics, excessive sleeping or difficulty sleeping, or doing reckless things that could harm yourself or others. Foster open communication with your teen so he’s comfortable talking to you about anything and so you’re not afraid to broach uncomfortable subjects such as mental health. Mental health issues are treatable, but you need to talk with your teen’s pediatrician or your local health department.
Drugs and Alcohol
Teens who casually experiment with drugs and alcohol might eventually find themselves facing serious health consequences. The average age for a teen to first try marijuana is 14, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which also points out that the average age for kids to try alcohol is 12. Teens who use drugs are at an increased risk for more serious drug use, failure in school and poor judgment, which can lead to an accident, violence, unsafe sex and even suicide. Talk to your teen about drugs, be a good role model and keep an eye out for physical and emotional problems that might indicate drug abuse.
One or two out of every 100 students in America will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life, according to KidsHealth.org. The two most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is a fear of weight gain, which might lead to a teen severely restricting what she eats and even fasting as well as exercising excessively. An anorexic teen might also binge eat, but then force herself to get rid of the calories. Bulimia is binge eating and then compensating, maybe by vomiting or excessive exercise, to prevent weight gain. Eating disorders can lead to muscle waste, bone loss, tooth decay, delayed growth, anemia, digestive or heart problems, seizures and/or depression. Talk to your teen about healthy eating habits and also help her realize that there are more body types than the ones she sees in movies or other media. Encourage your teen’s self-esteem through support and respect. If you do suspect an eating disorder, talk to your teen’s doctor.