Archive for 2011

Teens, Energy Drinks, and Health

Rock Star. Full Throttle. No Fear. Adrenaline Rush. Go Girl. Monster.

Just the names of energy drinks makes me think of snowboarding at full speed down a mountain full of admiring fans while rock music is blasting and I do a triple backflip and then someone tosses me a can… of Screaming Energy. Thanks to this extremely caffeinated sugar water with extra Vitamin B and a hefty dose of some amino acid, I’m going to go back up that hill and do it all over again.

Who can resist that image? Energy drinks are common fare for teens. Containing a hefty dose of caffeine and sugar, energy drinks help sleep-deprived teens remain alert during the day, whether they’re on the slopes or just trying to stay awake in history class on 6 hours of sleep.

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Teen Marijuana Use

Teen marijuana use may seem like a normal part of the high school experience. How many of us know someone who uses or have personally have tried a blunt, a bowl, or a hit off of a friend’s bong?  I remember growing up and hearing my uncle talk about smoking a ‘joint’ with nostalgia as he recalled the 1970’s.  Well, marijuana is still extremely popular and when asked, many teens think it’s healthier than smoking cigarettes. However, marijuana can have major impacts on health and mood. Read full post »

Depressed or “Just Being a Teenager”?

Teens have a reputation for having mood swings, being withdrawn, and getting emotional over the strangest things. Given their general tumult, how is a parent supposed to tell if their teenager is simply “being a teenager”, or if they might be suffering from clinical depression?

Let’s go over some “danger signs”, which may indicate that your teenager needs, at the very least, a visit to their primary care provider (PCP) to discuss the situation.

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Teen Dating Violence


Dating violence is something no parent or family would want for their teen. Deciding when a teen should be allowed to date is tough enough.  Thoughts going through a parent’s mind may include worries about sex or heart break, but how many parents think about abusive relationships?

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A Photoshopped Fantasy… And Its Effects on Teen Girls

When you think of aspirations, do you think of traveling,  going back to school, or hopes for your family? Most of us have aspirations we are working towards, but if you represent L’Oreal, you might think of an airbrushed picture of Julia Roberts. When the Advertising Standards Agency of the U.K. banned Loreal’s ad featuring a very heavily airbrushed picture of the actress, calling it “misleading”, L’Oreal responded that the picture was supposed to be “aspirational.”

I had a few reactions. First of all, can we get one of those agencies in the U.S.? Second of all, isn’t Julia Roberts pretty enough on her own? Third, “aspirational”? I guess we are supposed to “aspire” to have perfect skin, or perhaps aspire to have enough extra spending cash that we can afford expensive creams and makeup for our imperfect faces.

Most adults know that photographs of models and actresses used in advertising and fashion magazines are heavily altered. But I am constantly stunned at how many of our teen girls have no idea. When we discuss it with them, they often light up. You mean I don’t have to live up to that?

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Body piercing: What Parents Need to Know

For teens, a body piercing may be a way to rebel or imitate peers, or they may just want another way to accessorize their wardrobe.  Parents and teens both should know a few facts before getting pierced.  From a medical perspective, a piercing is a wound that needs to heal, with all the associated complications that can arise.  Piercings that are not performed with sterilized tools can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  In this video link, we speak with a licensed professional body piercer based in Seattle  about what parents should know about body piercing.


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 »

5 Things Your Teen Should Know How To Do Before College

College was a truly unique experience for me. Suddenly, I had only two rules in my life: Don’t get arrested, and pass your classes. Coming from a fairly strict family, I was thrilled with my newfound freedom. I remember approaching my new life with a sense of carefree abandon, eager to learn and experience all that I could.

College is obviously a different world from living at home with a loving parent or two, and there are certain skills that can help a teen transition from high school to college, and even from college to adult life.

This is my “Top 5”, but is by no means an exhaustive list; actually, I would like to hear some of your suggestions!

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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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