When your child starts the physical transition to adulthood, their bodies start to change in predictable ways — but that doesn’t make the shift any less traumatic. Fortunately, they also become more aware of their health during this time, providing the ideal opportunity for you to steer them in a positive direction.
However, any teen or tween parent knows that using punishment to get them to eat their carrots or get off the couch and move often backfire. Here are eight ways to help your teen with their health that won’t lead to resentment.
1. Take Them to the Dentist
Few people enjoy their trip to the dentist’s chair, but skipping their annual visit can lead to gum disease and cavities, which can eventually give way to tooth loss. Plus, many teens have concerns about crooked teeth based on cultural expectations of how they should look — although, in Japan, slightly mismatched teeth are thought to enhance attractiveness.
Taking care of your child’s teeth isn’t purely cosmetic, although if yours loses a tooth that shows when they smile due to a sports injury, it could affect their future career prospects. In such cases, dental implants can restore a natural look and feel — they can last a lifetime when properly maintained.
2. Get an Annual Physical
Your child should still get an annual checkup every year until age 18. If they play sports, they may have to undergo a physical exam before taking the field.
Now is also the time to catch up on any missed vaccinations. Many states and colleges now require students to receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine because of outbreaks of potentially deadly meningitis on campuses.
Finally, while both males and females should receive the Gardasil vaccine, it’s crucial for teen girls. It can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if the young woman has it before she is exposed to the virus, typically through sexual intercourse.
3. Set a Mutual Health Goal
If you’ve parented teens for a while, you probably know by now that lectures rarely work as intended. Why not set a mutual health resolution this year instead of nagging your kid to eat their broccoli?
This activity could bring you closer together as you start to see yourself more as teammates. Maybe you decide to adopt a more plant-based diet. Why not find some fun recipes online and work on kicking meatless Monday up a notch to two or three days a week?
You can do the same with fitness — it’s a lot easier to feel inspired when you encourage each other. You can benefit, too. Maybe you’re the one loath to put on your jacket and go for a run in the winter cold, but your teen’s prodding could get you out doing your laps.
4. Bring Back Family Dinner
Today’s hectic lifestyles have made the family meal a thing of the past. While it might not be practical to sit down together every evening, schedule at least one or two weeknights where you all come together at the table.
Doing so helps you keep tabs on your teen’s mental and physical well-being, but it also can cement your bond. To make the most of mealtime, turn off the TV and other electronic devices other than playing some background music to encourage conversation.
5. Become More Active as a Family
Obesity rates continue to soar in children and teenagers, and unfortunately, many don’t shed the excess pounds as they age. In more grim news, kids in families with overweight parents are more likely to become so themselves.
Why not become more active as a family? You don’t have to embark on radical diet and exercise changes. Instead, make small shifts, such as riding your bike or walking to run small errands. Take a 10-minute walk together after meals. Now that your children are teenagers, you can join a recreational sports league together.
6. Open the Communication Lines
How well do you know what’s going on with your teen? Often, this population suffers higher rates of loneliness than any other, which can have adverse health consequences.
Your teen won’t approach you, though, if they fear doing so will only get them in trouble. Don’t leave them to guess your reaction to talk about sex or drugs. Express to them that you want to help them make the right decisions and not judge or punish them if they approach you about such problems, even if they confess to negative behaviors.
7. Pay Attention to Mental Health Signs
Mental health problems too often go unrecognized and untreated in teens. Parents can sometimes stifle their teen’s approach to talk to them about depression or anxiety by saying things like, “these are the best years of your life.” While such statements might seem harmless, to someone struggling, they sound like yet another accusation that something is wrong or defective with them.
Encourage your kids to talk to you about how they feel mentally. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, let your child know what you do to address it. Openly sharing information can help decrease the stigma surrounding these topics and help your teen get the care they need.
8. Encourage a Regular Sleep Schedule
Many teens need more slumber than they get. However, if yours seems like a night owl, blame biology. Research indicates that teens are less responsive to sleep pressure, one of the body’s signals that triggers Zzz’s.
However, they still need eight to nine hours of sleep daily. If you decided to go the homeschool route, you could adjust their start time to let them rise later.
Help Your Teens With Their Health These 8 Ways
The physical changes associated with the teenage transition years can distress your child. Please use the eight ways above to help your teens with the