Teenology 101

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.

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What is ADHD

In the past, ADHD was seen as a problem with hyperactivity and impulsivity. More recently it has become clear that there are additional problems: difficulty with focus, memory and other areas. Both types of ADHD (with and without hyperactivity) are caused primarily by a neurotransmitter (a chemical signal in the brain) called dopamine.

Although these teens have a normal amount of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, they don’t work they are supposed to. This causes symptoms such as difficulty paying attention; not being organized; having trouble finishing school work; or losing completed homework. “Time sense” is also one of the key elements; time for teens with ADHD is usually “now or never.” If they plan to do something later, it is almost impossible for them to remember to do it.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about ADHD:

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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!

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Sleep is Importanzzzzzzz…….

I thought it would be best to write this post when I myself was sleep-deprived… which I am. I have a statistics midterm tomorrow, and I stayed up too late at night worrying about it. Today I’m irritable, drowsy, unable to concentrate, and have a headache. If I stopped and put my head down, I would drift off immediately.

Sound familiar? We all know what it’s like to be short on sleep. Whether we’ve been parents, students, or simply had too much to do, sometimes it’s a fact of life. And as we all know, adolescents are studying, texting, working, or playing World of Warcraft late into the night…

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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 »

Helping Your Teen Have Good Body Image

Recently I sent an email to all our clinicians asking one question: “If you could give parents or guardians one piece of advice on helping their teens have good body image, what would it be?”

I was going to post a few quotes as an entry, but as it turned out almost everybody had the same answer: Parents need to role-model body satisfaction, and focus on health instead of weight and appearance when discussing their bodies and the bodies of others. 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 »

A March-December Marriage

I found out this morning that Douglas Hutchison, a 51-year-old actor from Lost and the movie The Green Mile has married Courtney Stoddard, a 16-year-old “recording artist, singer/songwriter, actress, and model” from our very own Ocean Shores, Washington. This was done legally, with the consent of her parents. She and Douglas are defending the move by stating that they are very much in love and marriage was the next logical step, despite the fact that their relationship was conducted mostly online. 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 »

Keeping Your Adolescent Safe Online

The World Wide Web has changed our lives.

You can order a pizza without picking up the phone, get directions without pulling out a map, and find your long-lost childhood sweetheart with a search engine. We can look up information on pretty much anything with a few keystrokes. People with rare interests or problems can find like-minded peers around the world, and people in different countries can play an online game together, chatting all the while.

Most people online are seeking information, sharing it with friends, or buying something. However, there have always been untrustworthy people who try to target us in person; now they are online as well.

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