Youth are often malnourished in the sense that they don’t eat enough healthy foods.
Family meals- Eating at least one meal a day as a family can help ensure your youth is getting healthy food choices and strengthens the relationship with parents. Be intentional at meals to serve whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, and fruits.
Buy healthy foods rich in vitamins and avoid unhealthy snacks. Teach your youth to pack healthy snacks such as carrot sticks, cucumber slices, nuts, fresh fruit, popcorn, yogurt, or sandwiches made on brown bread. Avoid crisps, fried foods, and sweet drinks.
Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia (eating a lot and then vomiting) are most common among teenage girls who are concerned with their body image. Notify your doctor if your youth is skipping meals, is only eating tiny portions, or is losing weight. Anorexia and bulimia can cause serious long-term health problems.
Obesity starting at school age can continue into adulthood and cause serious lifelong health problems like diabetes and heart disease. If you notice that your child seems over-weight, consider booking an appointment with a healthcare professional. Check your family’s eating plan and try to eat healthier together. Add more vegetables and plant-based proteins to your diet. Put reasonable portion sizes onto your plates using measuring cups if needed. Don’t give seconds, desserts, fried foods, meats, or flavored drinks. Limit screen time and encourage outdoor activities.
Teens are most likely to die from high-risk behaviors than illness. At this age, young people are at their best health. Teens truly believe that they cannot get sick or die. For this reason, they tend to take risks that others don’t take.
Risky behaviors include:
-having sex and/or watching pornography
During the teenage years the role of parents is incredibly important. Research has shown that youth are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors when they have open, healthy relationships with parents. At this age the parent relationship shifts from authoritarian to a coaching relationship. By this time, you have taught your child your family’s values. Now, you want to keep the conversation open, to counsel your youth through the incredibly stressful teen years. It’s also helpful for teens to have mentors and other youth that are wanting to avoid a lot of these high-risk behaviors. Be available. Ask about their friends. Don’t judge. Help them to think through how they would respond if someone offered drugs, alcohol, or pressured them to have sex. Make sure your youth knows that you love him for him, not for his achievements.
There are a wide range of academic, athletic, artistic, and social abilities. Be supportive and encourage your teen. Find out what he or she is good at and enjoys, and encourage him to grow in that area. If a student’s grades drop suddenly, then have an open conversation with your student about any social, emotional, or health concerns that could be affecting grades. Have his vision evaluated if he is unable to read the board from the back of the room.
Teach life skills that will help your youth thrive in the adult world- respect, timeliness, neatness, computer skills, English proficiency, integrity, how to work with others, caring for personal needs, and honesty.
Security and Safety
Drugs and alcohol- In recent years we have seen more patients come in from drug related problems. What can start off as peer pressure and experimentation can quickly become addicting. Teens’ brains and bodies are still developing and can become damaged or addicted much easier than adults. Youth start wanting to take more and more drugs to experience pleasure or even to feel normal. A youth has become addicted to a drug when he needs it to feel normal. This can lead to stealing, prostitution, and violence to get more drugs. Besides ruining careers and relationships, drugs can cause heart attacks and early death. Youth may not be able to stop without professional help.
The best way to protect your teen from drugs is to talk with him about the dangers of drugs and how difficult it is to stop if exposed. Teach your teen to be wise and say “no” to drugs. Provide safe places for your teen to hang out. Get help early if you suspect your teen is on drugs. Report drug dealing to the authorities.
Seat belts– Teach your teen to put a seatbelt on every time he rides in a car to protect him from serious injury or death from vehicle accidents. He should never ride with anyone that has been drinking alcohol.
Sexually Transmitted Infections- HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HPV (causing genital warts and cancer) are incredibly common among teens, and many are incurable or can cause infertility. The only way to completely prevent these STI’s is by abstinence. www.healthyglobalkids.com has an abstinence-based dialogue you can use as a tool to help you have a conversation with your teen about God’s plan for sex.
Despite your best teaching, some teens will still choose to be sexually active. The next best thing to abstinence is to use condoms every single time they have sex. Make sure that they go to the clinic if they get any vaginal or penile discharge, growth, or abdominal pain. Sexually active teens should regularly be tested for HIV.
HPV vaccine- There is a vaccine given to teens that helps prevent cervical cancer that’s caused by HPV. For maximum effectiveness your teen should get the vaccine before exposed. Ask your doctor if it is available.
Anxiety, depression, and suicide- Many teens struggle with processing their emotions. Many become withdrawn because they are anxious or depressed and some think about harming themselves. It is important to check in with your youth often and to let them know that you support them. Bring them to see a professional if you are concerned that things are not okay.You are not alone in the parenting journey.