A yearly PE is recommended during these years to assess your child’s health and well being. If sports are involved, then your child may need a yearly PE and form to be able to successfully play with the team. We will help your child make the transition to an adult doctor when the time has come (usually around age 22 or 23 years old).
Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll – The Teen Years
Adolescence is fast approaching. In anticipation of all the changes that will soon occur, the teen years may cause some unease or trepidation. Contrary to popular belief, adolescence can be a period of growth and discovery for both you and your teen. Armed with a little information and preparation, you can navigate through the coming years quite successfully. The following information strives to stock your toolbox with all the necessary information that will make unfamiliar territory both accessible and manageable.
Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde
At some point or another, you might wish that you could read your teen’s mind. It may appear that your teen is changing daily in terms of how he/she acts and thinks. Teens are in a tough spot. They desperately want to belong and be included in a peer group, but they also want to develop an identify that makes them unique in some way. This social dilemma, coupled with raging hormones, makes teen behavior quite confusing.
In order to create his/her own sense of identity, your teen might question or reject formerly accepted beliefs and traditions. Although you may want to react in frustration or anger, it is better to talk to your teen very frankly about the sudden changes. Successful conversations are discussions that keep the lines of communication open for the future, not ones that end in anger or ultimatums.
The times they are a ‘changing
A teen’s body is ever changing during adolescence. You may think of the most obvious physical changes since they are easiest to see. However, puberty affects ALL parts. There is skeletal growth (growing taller), changes in body composition (muscle mass vs. fat), cardiorespiratory changes, neuroendocrine changes (brain activity), and reproductive changes. Although teens may be too self-conscious to tell you about these changes, or ask the questions that they are dying to know, it is important to talk to them about how their body is changing. Don’t be lulled into thinking that teens’ mature bodies match their emotional or behavioral maturity. Teens still need guidance, explanation, and reassurance.
The Birds and the Bees
Some parents have been preparing all of their lives for this discussion, and others have been dreading it. Regardless of what group you fall into, there are a few things that you should know. More than 50% of adolescents have had sexual intercourse by age 16, and more than 75% by age 19. 10-25% of teens have an STD and don’t even know it.
Some parents want to teach abstinence and other parents want to teach safe sex. All we ask is that you take the time to teach. It is unfair to expect your teen to make safe and informed decisions without information. In the age of the internet, teens have access to all kinds of information, some of which is highly inaccurate or potentially dangerous. By addressing these issues with your teen, you are already giving him/her a better chance at navigating through this stage of life more successfully. If you feel unprepared for this discussion, we at Doctor’s Pediatrics are here to help you and your teen initiate a healthy dialogue.
Just Say “No”
Although we all hope that our teens say “no” to drugs, the reality is that substance abuse among teens is alarmingly high. The mean age for smoking is 12 years, and the mean age for alcohol consumption is 12.6 years. Girls smoke more often than boys, but boys consume more alcohol than girls. Even for the closest of families, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your child is experimenting with drugs (including tobacco). As a parent, it is important to be aware of risk factors that may make your teen more vulnerable. Teens whose peer group uses drugs are more susceptible, as are teens that are depressed, have ADD, have anxiety disorders, and/or have parents that may use certain substances. Be aware of sudden changes in your teen’s peer group, a decrease in school performance, disinterest in previous hobbies/activities, or involvement in crime.
At Doctors’ Pediatric, we encourage children and parents to communicate as much as possible. We want teens to feel comfortable speaking with their parents about pertinent issues, even when very sensitive. However, teens do actually obtain certain “rights” that are independent of parent knowledge or consent. Based on Title X, a federal program devoted to providing family planning services, teens have a right to confidential services that offer contraception, counseling, gyn exams, screening for sexually transmitted illnesses, and other reproductive health care for both women and men. If you have questions regarding teens’ legal rights in CT, you can go to www.plannedparenthood.org.
Two of the vaccines that are recommended during the teen years protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and bacterial meningitis. If you have questions or concerns regarding these vaccines, please ask us at your child’s well visit.