Teenology 101

Teens and Birth Control: Emergency Contraception


 Birth control for teens is a topic that can be challenging to discuss. Both parents and teens may be uncomfortable discussing such an intimate topic, but open communication is so important. This post on emergency contraception for teens is the second in a series of 3 posts on teens and birth control.

As I’ve mentioned before, the only way to prevent pregnancy 100% of the time is to not have sex at all.  As parents, having open communication with your teens about expectations and family values is an effective way to help your teen wait to have sex until they are older.

Emergency contraception is a backup method that is not meant as a substitute for longer term contraception. Please see my post on hormone containing methods for more information on more effective long-term contraception. Talk with your teen’s doctor if any of them sound like a method of interest or if you have more questions after reading. Read full post »

HIV-Positive Friends, Roommates, and Fellow Students: Not a Problem

Recently the  Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania denied admission to a 13-year-old applicant. Despite his many academic and personal achievements, this boy was denied admission for fear that his HIV-positive status would “put their children at risk.”

Is this reminding anyone else of Ryan White?   I was absolutely astonished that in this day and age, a school would even think of refusing a child admission because he was HIV-positive. When Ryan White was diagnosed, even the uppermost government health officials were uncertain about HIV contagion and transmission. Now, more than 25 years later, we know much more about the virus. Denying a child the chance for an education because he is HIV-positive is inexcusable.

Let’s go over how HIV is transmitted. We are actually quite lucky that HIV, compared to other viruses, is so hard to catch. There are three main routes: sexual activity, sharing needles, and mother-to-child transmission.

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Teens and birth control: hormone containing methods

Birth control, also known as contraception, for teens is an important topic to discuss. Whenever the subject of birth control comes up in clinic, I can guarantee someone asks the question about safety.  It’s the same question I would ask if a medical provider discussed any new medication with me.  However, birth control also comes with personal stories: a friend who used one form of contraception and gained 20 pounds, or a mother who had an intrauterine device (IUD) and had horrible complications.  The good news is that birth control has had a makeover during the past decade and there are many options that are extremely effect and safe to use.  Hopefully, this blog can serve as an overview and alleviate some fears. To learn more about how birth control is used for medical reasons other than contraception, see our recent post. Today’s post will be the first in a series of 3 posts on birth control and teens. Read full post »

Home for the Holidays

For many parents, this Thanksgiving will be the first time their teen is coming home from college for the holidays. They’ve been living in dorms or apartments, studying, partying, and reveling in their independence, and now the family gets to reunite. It’s something many parents look forward to, but may worry about as well.

Teens in college have been eating, sleeping, studying, and living independently for at least a couple of months. They’ve lived with few rules. How will they behave when back in their old home? Will there be fights, or will they just be thrilled to have someone do their laundry for them?

Of course, every teen is different. But here are some common things that parents notice when teens are home from college.

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The Birth Control Pill: Not Just For Birth Control

A recent study found that 1 in 3 teenage girls using birth control pills (BCPs) are using them reasons other than birth control- such as preventing acne, easing menstrual cramps, or helping with PMS. Despite their name, birth control pills are  useful for many purposes besides birth control!

There are many brands of BCPs, but they fall into two basic categories: the”combination” BCPs, which contain the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the “progesterone-only” BCPs (which obviously contain only progesterone.)

If your teen doesn’t have certain medical issues (more about this below), they would be prescribed combination BCPs. They are better at controlling symptoms that a teen would take a BCP for, and also provide better birth control if it’s needed.

Let’s look at what BCPs can do for your teen:

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Who should pay for gas?

 I was recently chatting with a colleague who has 3 teenagers and she enlightened me that she spends a considerable amount of money on gas…not for herself (she bikes to work), but for her teen daughter!

Of course, the idea of who should pay for things spills over into other areas.  If a teen wants the latest fashion design, or really wants to see a movie with friends, who pays for it?  When should a teen be expected to earn money for things beyond the basic needs of food, shelter, and school supplies? Read full post »

Acne in Teens

Acne. It’s not a particularly glamorous topic, but it often comes up when discussing adolescents. A fairly normal skin condition for teens, it can lead to poor self-esteem, shame,  depression, and (rarely) suicidal ideation.

The onset of acne in adolescents can be chalked up to hormones. Both boys and girls, upon hitting puberty, experience an upswing in testosterone. This causes an increase in sebum, a substance excreted by the skin that can block pores and open a space for bacteria to multiply. A tendency to acne can run in families.

Some things that were once thought to cause or worsen acne, but we now know don’t, include chocolate, caffeine, makeup (as long as it is labeled “noncomodogenic”),and poor hygiene.

Acne can range from a small pimple to serious, disfiguring, painful nodules that need drainage. Acne usually doesn’t lead to medical complications, but it can cause serious psychological stress. If your teen is concerned, it’s time to treat it.

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Leaving Their Mark: Teens & Tattoos

Tattoos have become extremely popular in this day and age. Once thought to be only suitable for sailors or hoodlums, now even the most prim of grandmothers might be sporting a butterfly on her ankle. Tattoos may be large and intricate or small and simple, weighted with meaning or whimsical, but they seem to be everywhere. And your teen may be hankering after one.

It is illegal to tattoo anyone in Washington State under the age of 18 (even with parental permission), so unless your hankering teen has plans to head to Colorado, they may just have to hanker until they hit legal adulthood.

However, if your teen is anything like me, they may trot off to the nearest tattoo parlor as soon as they pass that eighteenth birthday. If you’re lucky, they may ask for your advice and input. Here are a few things to know about tattoos.

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Safety in Numbers for Teens

Teen safety includes topics like driving, drug use, and violence prevention. It also includes being aware of surroundings. In the city, we routinely hear about robberies and assaults on college age students who may be out at 2 am while leaving a party, but may also just be walking home from a study group. In many of these cases, the victim was traveling on foot alone, after dark, and I wonder if they would have been attacked if they had been with a group of peers. Read full post »

How Do You Discipline Teenagers?

A video of a Texas judge William Adams whipping his teenage child with a belt has caused a media furor (this is a link to an article, not the video), and many are calling for a child abuse investigation. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video- and found it unnecessary when articles described it in detail- but it was brutal, a terrifying depiction of uncontrolled, explosive rage.

It should be obvious to everyone reading this that beating your teenager with a belt while screaming obscenities is not the way to discipline a teenager; it is illegal, not to mention violent and horrible.

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