Author: Yolanda Evans, MD, MPH

Health Rights of Teens

Health rights of teens are important for every parent to understand. A major task during the teen years is to navigate the balance between autonomy and parental support.  Developmentally, teenagers are going through the process of maturing: they shift from concrete to more abstract thinking, they question boundaries, and they start to take responsibility for their own health.

This time can be amazingly fun and extremely challenging at the same time.  When it comes to health, teens may seek medical care less often, but when they go, they’ll often be accompanied by parents.  The question I hear from teens and parents alike is “How old do I need to be to consent for my own health care? Do I need to be 18?”  My answer is “It depends.” Read full post »

Chronic illness and transition

Chronic illness and transition to adult health care providers can be a challenging task for parents and teens. Working in a major children’s hospital, most of the teenagers I meet are faced with the daily struggle of living with a chronic illness.  Some of these youth look ‘normal’ on first glance and others might fit the more stereotyped idea of an unwell child.  Adolescence is tough enough to go through if you are completely healthy, but adding a chronic illness on top of that complicates things even more. This post isn’t meant to cover every aspect of living with chronic illness, but just to get parents thinking about how illness and disease can affect a teen that is living with it.

Read full post »

Family meals equal healthier teens

 Sitting as a family at the same table may seem like a daunting task in our fast paced lives.  We are often racing to and from work, school, and extracurricular activities.  Eating occurs when it’s convenient, which means we sometimes in the car and often on the go.  Believe it or not, taking time to sit and eat as a family can have positive effects on health!

Read full post »

Teasing about weight hurts

It may seem like normal sibling rivalry to hear brothers and sisters tease each other about their weight.  Parents may even tease a little.  How many people have been at a friend’s home and heard them make a comment to their child such as ‘should you really eat that?’ or ‘you look like you may be gaining a bit of weight’ to a teen who looks healthy to you? Commenting about weight seems like the norm in our society.  Why shouldn’t it be?  We are constantly bombarded with images of unrealistically proportioned models and ads for dieting products.  Magazines are all retouched and Hollywood celebrities wouldn’t dream of being photographed without makeup.

The thing is, all of this negative commentary can impact our health. A recent study of teen girls found that parents’ negative talk about weight was associated with their children having unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors. This study looked at 356 teen girls from 12 different high schools. Some of the unhealthy weight control behaviors that teens engaged in included skipping meals, smoking cigarettes, taking diet pills or laxatives, vomiting and binge eating, as well as going on a diet. Read full post »

Perfectionism in Teens

I am definitely a ‘type A’ personality; growing up, perfectionism was a trait I had early on. Trying to be the smartest in my class started when I was in kindergarten. My mom still has a picture of me at age 5 with my first student of the month award. I’m not sure why I tried so hard to be perfect; maybe it was being the first born that drove me to dread disappointing my parents or maybe it was just my temperament. My parents had expectations that I would be courteous and obey rules at school as well as finish my homework on time, but never did they tell me I needed to be number one. That was something I came up with all on my own.

Perfectionism may not sound like such a terrible trait. When we hear that term, we think of people who are smart and successful, but as I work with teens more and more, I’ve noticed that perfectionism is not without some downsides. Those teens who strive to be ‘perfect’ may naturally be the most intelligent or the best athletes, but often they are overextending themselves with homework and advanced placement courses or extracurricular activities at the expense of sleep and friendships. Read full post »

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

I remember one of the first times my mother left me and my siblings home alone for longer than a few minutes. I was 12 years old, and as the eldest of 4 children, felt pretty mature and responsible. My mom was only gone about an hour, but she came home to what was likely her worse nightmare at the time. The condominium complex next to ours had caught on fire and our neighborhood was surrounded by fire trucks and medical personnel. We were absolutely fine, but my mom was very hesitant to leave us alone for quite awhile after that. Read full post »

Water Safety

One of the most wonderful aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest is enjoying our amazing summers.  The temperature hovers around a comfortable 75 degrees, the humidity is low, and the days are long.  With the warmer temperatures come the outdoor activities and Seattle is surrounded by water!  Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Puget Sound, and on and on.  Boats, both motor and paddled, are common and teens are often invited to partake in summer activities involving water. Read full post »

Much ado about summer

Ah, it’s that time of year. Summer! Daffodils have sprouted and the cherry blossoms bloomed… seasonal allergies are flaring up. It’s also the time of year where the school year is winding down and kids are getting excited about summer vacation.  Now parents have to consider what activities can occupy their teen for those 6.5 hours of the day that they would have been in school.

With each of my patient visits that happen this time of year I ask everyone what their summer plans are. Some are taking big trips to other countries, some will be going to volunteer at camps they attended as young kids, and others just reply, ‘nothing.’ It made me wonder about a few questions…

Read full post »

Prom Night

Prom: a rite of passage! Arguably the most important dance in high school and a night full of memories for parents and teens. I remember my senior prom, my parents made my friends and I line up in front of our home in our fancy clothes and make up to take countless pictures. Every once and a while I look back at the photos and think of how young I was even though I thought I had the world figured out.

With all the fun of getting dressed up and picking out the tuxedo and the dress, prom also has a reputation. Movies often portray prom night as a night full of parties, alcohol and substance use, and lost virginity. Though my prom was uneventful, some teens may have very different experiences.

Read full post »

Is that latte safe?

With the increase in coffee shops and vending machines selling caffeinated beverages, more and more children and teens are drinking caffeine, but is coffee really safe for a teen?

Caffeine consumption in adults has been a normal pastime and is very acceptable. People use caffeine for many reasons, including help with concentration, to wake up in the mornings, and for the taste. Most studies in adults show that small to moderate doses (like a cup of coffee) in adults are safe. However, there are very few studies of the effects of caffeine on children and teens.

Read full post »