Archive for 2012

Cancer and Teens

We all hope that everyone in our family has a long healthy life, but sometimes health is put in jeopardy. Each year around 70,000 teens and young adults ages 15-35 are diagnosed with cancer. With the diagnosis of cancer, many people envision bald heads, the nausea associated with chemotherapy, and the threat of death. For teens facing the diagnosis, there are many other things that come to mind.

Adolescence is already a time of change. Teens are pulling away from family, spending more time with friends, experimenting in many different ways (relationships, sports, driving, sometimes drugs and alcohol), and really trying to figure out who they are as an individual. The diagnosis of cancer can threaten this normal development. With the diagnosis comes treatment. Treatment often involves chemotherapy and/or radiation that can involve hospitalization. If a teen is in the hospital, they aren’t in school. This means they aren’t going to classes, hanging out with friends, and learning to drive. All of this can lead to falling behind in course work, lost relationships with peers, and even poor self esteem and depression. Read full post »

How to Get Your Teen to Lose Weight, Part 3: Exercise

Exercise is good for us. It strengthens our bones and our muscles, and keeps our joints in working order. It prevents and can reverse high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and insomnia. It is the best way to avoid heart disease. It improves our immune system. Exercise has been clinically shown to improve mental health, including helping to alleviate depression and anxiety. It reduces the risk of dementia in our older years. And, of course, it helps people to maintain a healthy weight. With the exception of some people who cannot exercise for medical reasons (like a heart problem or eating disorder), reaping the benefits of exercise is one of the best things we can do for our health. Exercise is highly recommended for teens who want to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just maintain a healthy body and mind.

But, in general, Americans don’t get enough exercise. There are numerous reasons for that. Some of them are simply our society changing; we don’t work in the fields, walk miles to school or work, or spend hours hanging up clothes to dry. Video games and personal computers, which involve lots of sitting, are relatively recent inventions. With “urban sprawl” comes less of an ability to walk to destinations, as it’s not efficient or sometimes even feasible not to drive. Some areas are simply not conducive to outdoor exercise: they lack sidewalks, have high crime rates, or are easy to get lost in.

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Social Networking Sites and Teen communication

Teens have always found ways to communicate that exclude adults. When I was a teen, we used slang terms like ‘fresh’ and ‘word’ to speak to each other. Cell phones were only used by the select few who were wealthy, pagers were still cool, and email was a brand new idea that was mainly used by people in corporate America to send office memos.

Teens in the 21st century have the advantage of having amazing technology at their disposal to use for communication. Chat rooms used to scare parents in the past. Now teens can text friends all night long, access the internet 24 hours a day with smart phones, or talk to friends who’ve moved away using webcams that are a standard feature on laptops. Social networking sites are now the place where the latest gossip is shared, or the newest ideas are exchanged. Our lives are no longer shared only with those who can come visit us at home, they are shared with friends (and strangers) around the world in cyberspace. Read full post »

How to Get Your Teen to Lose Weight, Part 2: Revving up

So you’ve been to see your primary care provider, as we discussed in Part 1, and your teen has been medically cleared. Now you are looking at the challenge of fitting activity into their schedule, and changing their eating habits. Where to start?

Start with yourself. Or rather, start with the whole family. If your whole family (except for your teen) gets 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, engages in physical activity 6 days a week, avoids soda and sugary beverages, and focuses on health and activity instead of numbers on the scale… Congratulations! My hat is off to you. For the rest of us, there is room for improvement!

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Teens and birth control: barrier methods

 Reproductive health and birth control for teens is a topic every parent should know about.  I want to emphasize that the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections 100% of the time is to not have sex at all, but parents and teens should be aware of birth control methods available. This is the third post in a series of 3 on birth control (also known as contraception) for parents of teens.

With sexual activity come a lot of responsibilities that teens likely will not be equipped to handle without help. As was stated in previous posts on Hormone Containing Methods and Emergency Contraception, in the US, about 46% of all high school kids have had sex. Only 23% were on birth control and 61% had used a condom the last time they had sex (Centers for Disease Control).  For parents, having open communication with your teens about expectations and family values is an effective way to help your teen wait to have sex until they are older.   Talk with your teen early and often in order teach them how to be aware of consequences and how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if they decide to become sexually active. See our post on Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Sex.

There are many types of birth control and it is best to pick a method that fits into a person’s lifestyle.  If your teen is interested in birth control, speak with their doctor to find a method BEFORE they start having sex if at all possible.  I’ll summarize barrier methods (condoms) in this post. Read full post »