Archive for 2013

Nutrition and your teen – Healthy at Every Size

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind, drawing on blackboardThe human body comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are petite and some of us are built like linebackers or basketball point guards. All of us require food to fuel our body. Some people think humanity comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure that we won’t all be susceptible to the same diseases (this could be infection or famine). I tend to think variety keeps life interesting, helps us have empathy and acceptance, and provides us with the opportunity to learn from the strengths of others. March is national nutrition month, so this week let’s cover an up and coming topic in nutrition: the idea that healthy people can come in all shapes and sizes. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Students Sitting on StepsThis is my last post on the topic of teens and sexual assault. I’m going to start with another story from my adolescence that will always stay with me. I was 15, and had lied, finagled, and faked my way into an all-night party at my friend Hannah’s* house. The ages at this party ranged from 13-20 (first problem), Hannah’s mother was willing to tell parents she’d be there all night, but went to sleep early and never woke up (second problem), the house had a few acres of property, including cabins (third problem), and there was beer everywhere (fourth problem.)

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Nutrition and Your Teen

bowlMarch is National Nutrition Awareness month so we wanted to take advantage of this and talk about nutrition for teens over the next few weeks. I’ve already started hearing ads on the radio and television commenting on nutrition for the month. With all of the media coverage on health, diets, exercise, and supplements, it can be extremely confusing to know what information is valid for your family or your teen as an individual. While I can’t tell you exactly what to believe, perhaps I can share some information from a medical standpoint that may help with picking the advice that’s right for your teen. Over the month of March, I’ll post ideas on nutrition for you and your teen. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 6: Sexual Assault Within A Relationship

gayteencoupleWhen I was about 15, a friend was confiding in me about our friend Sasha’s* fight with her boyfriend James*. Sasha had been dating James for a while, and their relationship included sexual activity. She told me that Sasha had cheated on James, and he had found out and been furious.

“What did he do?” I asked.

“He was really mad. He yelled at her and threw things and made her have sex with him,” she said.

“Like, he made her have sex, when she was saying no?” I said, incredulous.

“Well… I don’t know. I don’t think so. He said she was crying but didn’t fight him or anything.”

Reading this as an adult makes me cringe. But as teens, we were a little confused as to whether James could really rape Sasha, given that they were going out and had had sex before. When we saw Sasha next, she and James were together and they seemed happy. We concluded that she couldn’t have been sexually assaulted.

When we think of teens being sexually assaulted, we often think of stranger/ acquaintance rape, but teens can and are sexually assaulted by their romantic partners. This can occur even if they have consented to sex in the past, and might again in the future. Consenting to one episode of sexual contact does not mean that there is blanket consent for sexual consent at all times.

This seems like an easy concept for adults to understand, but it’s important to remember that the very idea of date and marital rape wasn’t really addressed by our society until the 1970s. One of my earliest memories of talk radio is listening to (and being confused by) a debate in the early 80s that boiled down to, “Is it really possible to rape your own wife?”

Teens- especially younger teens- can be confused by the concept of sexual assault within the confines of a romantic relationship that has already involved sexual contact. It’s important that teens realize that it’s wrong to make, or coerce, someone into having sex, even if they’ve consented to sex before. It’s also important that teens know they can say no to someone- with every expectation of an immediate halt to sexual activity- even if they’ve said yes before, no matter what the circumstances. In Sasha’s case, I found out later she felt she’d “deserved it” for having sexual contact with someone else while dating James.

While it’s very important that your teen realize that it’s important to gain consent for sexual contact, they also need to know that consent is important for every sexual contact. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a teen has to seriously sit down and formally ask for consent every time (although they can if they want to), but they do need to realize that consent is not a one-time process when one is dating someone, or has had sexual contact with them before. This may not be one of those concepts where you can give a step-by-step guide on how to deal with it, but it’s still important that they’re aware the concept exists.

Once you’ve discussed how important this is with your teen, ask them how they’d go about making sure every sexual contact is consensual. There isn’t one correct answer. Discuss their ideas with them. Depending on your teen, they may be so embarrassed at the idea of talking to you about this that they stop the conversation, which is fine. Once you’ve asked the question, you can leave their mind to fill in the blanks when it’s time… although bringing it up again when they’re in a romantic/ sexual relationship never hurts.

What conversations have you had with your teen about this? What was their reaction?

*Names changed


Part 1: The Steubenville Incident

Part 2: Drinking and Drugs

Part 3: The Age of Consent

Part 4: Trusting Your Gut

Part 5: Developmentally Delayed Teens

Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Part 8: The Media’s Response to the Steubenville Convictions


Preventing Teen Pregnancy

prego teen on floorTeen pregnancy rates have declined in the US over the past few years, however they continue to be higher than other industrialized nations. We’ve blogged about teen pregnancy before, and my co-author posted an entire series on the topic, but a journal article published online this week has prompted me to write about teen pregnancy today.  With the staggering statistic of nearly 1,000 teens giving birth each day in the US, I think it’s worth mentioning again. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 5: Developmentally Delayed Teens


Developmentally delayed teens are at a much higher risk of sexual assault than their non-delayed peers; the numbers are both depressing and well-validated. Despite the high rates of sexual assault in the teenage population, developmentally delayed teens are at even greater risk. The reason is simple: they are seen as an easy target, and there are predators out there looking to take advantage of them.

“Developmental delay” is a vague term (and is starting to become replaced by the phrase “intellectually disability”), encompassing Down Syndrome, autism, and other conditions that may be genetic or acquired. The range of developmental delay spans from teens who cannot communicate in any fashion with their caregivers, to articulate teens who plan to graduate high school and seek higher education or employment. Obviously, discussion and education for a delayed teen is not a one-size-fits-all task.

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Teen Immunizations

Flu or allergy shot. This image is available exclusively on Istock.I have a 6 month old and it feels like she is getting immunizations every time we go see our pediatrician. I sent pictures of the band-aids on her thighs to her grandparents and labeled them ‘badges of courage.’ I know this routine of vaccinations at every visit will slow down as she gets older, but will our pediatrician still recommend immunizations as she reaches the teen years?  The answer is yes.

There are 4 vaccines that are recommended during the teen years for children who are up to date on other immunizations. These include Tdap, MCV, HPV, and influenza. In this post I’ll focus on these vaccines and not the full schedule that is recommended for children. While immunizations are recommended, the choice to immunize is one that each family has to make on its own because there are risks and benefits to every decision.  In this post I’ll talk about what the vaccines are and which diseases they protect against. Read full post »

Tips for Relieving Stress in Teens

GreenlakeOne of the most common things I hear from my teen patients is that they are busy. Most teens are going to school full time, participating in extracurricular activities (sports, theater, orchestra, youth groups), being older or younger siblings, and trying to fit in a social life. Add a job, volunteer activities, and spending time with family and most teens have more to do each day than I do as the working mom of an infant!

Though they can’t (or may not want) to take a break from all of these activities, having a few tips for relieving stress can be extremely helpful when life starts to become overwhelming. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 4: Trusting Your Gut


When I was a freshman in college, a friend told me about something a professor had said to the class at one point. “She said that if you’re at a party and you’re the only girl left, and things are starting to feel weird, throw a lamp out the window! Then run while everyone’s wondering why you threw a lamp out the window.”

While I can’t give a broad recommendation to throw lamps out windows (you never know who is standing below), the message of this stayed with me: If your gut tells you something is wrong, go with it, even if it means looking foolish or crazy. By then, I’d had enough friends who had been sexually assaulted- one at a party where she was left as the only woman, no less- that it made perfect sense to me.

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Overweight teens and bullying

I know I’ve taken a break from my series because new studies in adolescent medicine keep come across my inbox that are interesting and sometimes scary. For example, a recent study found that teens ages 14-18 are a high risk for being bullied. This study looked at teens that were enrolled in weight loss camps. They found some very surprising findings. Read full post »