How To Promote Teen Health

When our children are very young, we take care of all of their needs. We choose their food, their clothing; we even choose their playmates. As they grow and mature, we give them a little more control over their choices, and we tend to guide more than decide. When they are teenagers, we need to help them to make choices that will have a positive impact on their adult lives, which are just around the corner. Of course, we want them to be happy and healthy--here a few tips on promoting teen health:

  1. Encourage your teen to establish a trusting relationship with your family doctor, and try to give him some space and privacy. If your child would feel more comfortable, help him to locate a doctor of his own. The important thing is that he has a professional that he can turn to for sound advice without worrying that everything he says will be relayed to you.
  2. See that your teenager has regular checkups with a dentist and an optometrist.
  3. Provide healthy, well-balanced meals. Teenagers will eat a certain amount of junk food when they are out of the house, but try to stock your fridge and cabinets with nutritious foods, snack, and beverages.
  4. Encourage physical activity and participation in sports. It is especially beneficial to promote "life sports" or those that she will continue to enjoy throughout adulthood. Good examples are golf, tennis, and swimming.
  5. Talk to your teen about food and body issues. Emphasize the importance of making dietary choices to promote good health, and not to enhance appearance.
  6. Provide and encourage the use of sunscreen.
  7. Encourage your teen to share his feelings. Depression, anxiety, and panic disorders sometimes make their first appearance during the teen years--let you child know that there is no shame in seeking help.
  8. Talk to your child about the many dangers of drug use and alcohol consumption. Stress the unhealthful effect on the body and mind, the consequences of impaired judgment, and the legal issues that they could encounter by indulging in such behaviors.
  9. Teach your teen healthy ways to manage stress. Encourage exercise, relaxation, and down time.
  10. Teach your child to be a safe driver. Insist that she never drink and drive or get into a car with a driver who has had even one drink. Let your teen know that although you do not approve of underage drinking, if the need ever arises, you will come to pick her up.
  11. Forbid cigarette smoking in your home and be sure that your teen is aware of the deadly consequences of becoming addicted to tobacco products.
  12. Talk to your teen about sex. Although you should certainly express your own moral values about sexual activity, know that ultimately your teenager will have to make his own decisions. Promote abstinence or at the very least, safe sex. Talk at length about the possible consequences of teenage sex including unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Discuss the emotional side of sex, feelings of self-worth, peer pressure, and the power to say no. Let your teen know that you will answer questions without passing judgment.
  13. Maybe most important--set a good example. Your teenager will learn more about taking care of herself from watching you than she will from listening to you. Eat well, exercise, and do not engage in risky behaviors.


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