Teenology 101

Vitamin D and teen health

beachGuest Post by Dr. Raina Vachhani

What’s all the fuss about vitamin D?

The short answer is that our bodies are built to make vitamin D using sunlight, and for us folks living up north, that isn’t really happening during the winter.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that our bodies use to help us absorb the calcium we eat, which we need to help make strong bones. Without vitamin D, calcium levels can drop, causing long-term effects on the strength of bones. The teens and twenties are the most critical time to build strong, healthy bones in order to avoid having weak bones and a risk of bone fractures later in life.

There is a lot of exciting research going on to figure out what other roles vitamin D might play. Some scientists think that low vitamin D levels could be related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, infections, and neurological diseases, though most of these links haven’t been proven yet. The reality is that most people have no symptoms to indicate to them (or their doctors) that their level of vitamin D is low. Read full post »

Prevention of Substance use – a forum for parents to ask questions

Substance use among adolescents is not a new concern for parents, but with recreational marijuana use being legal for people ages 21 and older in Washington, the changes to laws around marijuana over the past few years have led many parents to ask questions about how to talk with their teens about substance use. Should I tell my teen I’ve used before? How do I keep my teen from abusing drugs? Is it ok for teens to use occasionally? Are drugs really all that harmful? If a drug is legal, does that mean it’s safe? My teen is using, when should I be worried? Read full post »

Should my teen daughter shave?

Guest Post: Dr. Laura Burkhart

How old should my daughter be before she starts shaving? It’s a question that many parents have, but hard to find answers too.

This can be a tough decision to make, but its good to have an open and honest conversation with your daughter. There really isn’t a specific age at which girls should start shaving. It is a personal decision dependent on your family’s cultural and personal beliefs. In our American society, girls can start going through puberty as young as 8 or 9. The normal increase in hormones causes the hair underarms and in the pubic region to grow longer and darker which can often lead to feeling self-conscious around peers. Read full post »

Transition to Adult Care Providers

leahparentWhen our kids are little, we take them to their well child exams in order to ensure they remain healthy. This preventive visit reassures us that they are growing well, meeting development milestones, and offers the opportunity to have our (and our child’s) questions about health answered. As kids enter the teen years, these visits occur less and less often. A friend recently asked my opinion as a pediatrician and adolescent specialist about when teens are too old to go see the pediatrician? This excellent question prompted me to post about the topic. Read full post »

Why are the hours from 3pm-6pm important

We’re all busy… we work, we parent, we try to have a bit of time for self-care. Teens are busy too! Most get up early, go to school, then come home, work on homework and get ready for bed just to start the day again. Over the past few months, I’ve heard multiple times about the importance of a few key hours in a teen’s day: the hours of 3pm-6pm. What is so different about this small part of the day? Read full post »

Preventing Teen Marijuana Abuse

MarijuanaEvery time I meet with a teen for the first time I ask a series of questions. Most are open ended inquiries about their hobbies, their friends and family, and what motivates them to do their best. I also ask a few screening questions to get a sense of whether or not they’re engaging in risky behaviors. A trend I’ve noticed over the past 5 years is that more and more teens are telling me they’ve tried marijuana.

A new documentary called “Marijuana Documentary – Northwest Trees” was created and produced by Ben Grayzel. It features one of our guest bloggers Dr. Leslie Walker and offers commentary from teens and young adults in the Pacific Northwest on marijuana. While I may not condone some of the behaviors featured, I definitely admire the candid responses. Teens talk about availability of marijuana, perceptions of peer use, and discuss whether or not they think it’s helpful or harmful. Read full post »

Should my teen get a job?

I was reminiscing about my first job recently. Though my parents had provided an allowance for completing certain chores, the first time I worked outside of the home and received pay from a non-relative was at the age of 12. Our neighbors had young children and needed a night out every once in awhile. As the responsible oldest sibling (out of 4) they felt safe enough to allow me to put their kids to bed and go dinner. My reward for playing with kids and putting them to bed was $10. I was then hooked on earning money! Read full post »

Teens and risk of DUI

A recent article in the Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was one of the first to look over time at teens’ risk of driving under the influence (DUI) or riding with a drinking driver (RWDD). Motor vehicle accidents are one of the top 3 leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the US. We have written about the dangers of driving while texting & driving while using drugs in the past.  At the same time, we’ve emphasized that parents are crucial in setting expectations, boundaries, and consequences for teen drug use. This article provides even stronger evidence for characteristics and perceptions that are risk factors for teen DUI. Read full post »

Home from college for the holidays

Guest Post: Laura Burkhart, MD

Boomerangs

Let’s walk through a common scenario of a college freshman coming home for break.

You are so excited that your teen is coming home for the long holiday weekend.  It has been several months since you dropped them off at college and you have a bursting schedule of exciting events and family get-togethers planned.  When your teen comes home, they head straight to their old room, dump off their laundry and then call old friends.  Before you know it they are heading out for the night without any consideration for the big dinner you planned.  You wonder, “do they even want to spend time with the family??!”

Chances are if you have a teen in college, you have experienced this.   College students are commonly referred to as “boomerangs”-coming in and out of the house, sometimes leaving no trace except dirty socks and dishes.  This can be very frustrating and confusing, but there a few things you can do to prepare for such transient homecomings.  So how can you make the most of the time your newly independent teen has at home? Read full post »

How do we teach compassion?

iStock_000014694151XSmallFor many of my friends and colleagues the holiday season from the months of November through January is their favorite time of year. We have family gatherings, time off of work to spend with our kids, great meals, and exchanging of gifts. However, I just drove into a parking lot of a large home improvement store and saw numerous people waiting for the opportunity to do work. Others who had holes in their jackets and looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, and some who simply held signs asking for any help a person could spare. Seeing all of these people was a blunt reminder that not everyone has all of their basic human needs met. I drive by this store routinely, but I’ve become desensitized to the people in the parking lot. It made me ask, “Where has my compassion gone?” Read full post »