SAMPLE PARENT NOTES
Tips for Parents of Teens
The text below comes from a brochure distributed by a family practice clinic. It is one example of written materials designed to communicate with the parents of teens about adolescent health.
Welcome to our Clinic, and congratulations on being the parent of a teenager. What fun! And what a challenge….Here are some "tips" we thought might be helpful about important health concerns for teens….
BODY CHANGES…AND HORMONES
Get ready! The teen years are a time of fast growth and changes. One minute they're kids, and the next minute they're taller than you! Girls are getting ready for periods in 6th or 7th grades, and their breasts start growing even sooner. These body changes are caused by hormones. And it's hormones that make their moods and energy swing up and down so much. Girls' growth peaks in 6th and 7th grades. Boys will start to grow in the 6th and 7th grades. They will start to get pubic hair and acne, and their voices will change. The boys' growth spurt peaks about 9th or 10th grade. It is good for parents to talk to kids about their changing bodies, even if they get embarrassed. Kids really don't know what's happening to them!
Girls usually start their periods some time around 11, 12, 13 years old. It's good for parents to start talking about menstruation to their daughters by age 10. There are some helpful picture books about the changes in young girls. Sometimes there are classes on the subject at school or church. It's helpful if Mom (or an aunt or a big sister) can talk to young girls about periods and cramps and tampons. We have some educational material at our clinic if you or your daughter is interested.
We all want our kids not to smoke. What can WE do to help?
First, it's best if we don't smoke. Let your kids know you are concerned about their smoking. In the short run it leads to coughing and loss of good breathing and can make asthma worse. In the long run, it causes cancer and emphysema. Consider making a rule about "no smoking" in the house or car.
There are ways to stop smoking. There are medicines and methods that can help parents and teens stop smoking.
Talk to your teens about family rules related to drinking. Tell them about the laws (legal age is 21) and the penalties for early drinking (loss of driver's license). "NO driving after drinking!" Offer to pick them up from parties or friends if they have been drinking. No matter what, try to wait until the next day to ask questions. Talk to your teens about how drinking can cause people to make bad choices, like getting pregnant!
Most kids have heard about drugs and are curious about what drugs do to people. Talk to your kids about your family's rules about drugs. Many teens will experiment with drugs. Talk with them about what you think some of the dangers are. Kids who are using drugs may behave differently-like sleeping a lot, staying up very late, acting extra-moody, or falling behind in their school work. We would be glad to talk to you (and your teen) about drugs and mental health.
The most important safety tip for teens is to always wear seat belts in a car. The second best tip is never to drink and drive. The third best tip is to wear a helmet when biking or skate boarding. If there are any guns in the home, be sure they are unloaded and locked up. Finally, find out if there is gang activity in your neighborhood. Are your kids at risk?
How is your kid's mood or spirit? Do they seem real down? Extra-moody? Are they sleeping a lot? Are they eating a lot, or not at all? Unfortunately, more teenagers are getting depressed these days. We've all heard the sad stories about teen suicide. Keep talking to your teen about how they are feeling and how their life is going. Don't be afraid to ask your teen if they have thoughts of harming themselves - asking won't make them suicidal. If you have any concerns at all, we'd be glad to see you and your teen, or you can notify your teen's school counselor.
Do your kids eat well? Keep in mind that the teen years are a time of great growth spurts and great appetite spurts. Be ready for your kid to get a lot bigger and eat a lot more! It's best if you have healthy food around the house for them like fruit, vegetables, juice, cheese, nuts, peanut butter. Help them cut down on junk food: pop, chips, cookies, french fries, hamburgers, etc.
Teens need to get lots of exercise. It helps them blow off steam and use up all that good teen energy. It's great if they can do outside activities every day. Help support them in sports if they want, or games at the park. Include them (and their friends, when you can) in family outings like fishing, biking, or softball.
Who are your teen's friends? It's good to get to know them so you can talk to your teen about them. Offer your teen the opportunity to invite friends over or even have a party. Talk to your teen's friends. Talk to their parents. Be ready because they might be quite different from your own son or daughter. All teens need positive adult role models to help them stay on the right track.
As kids enter the 5th and 6th grade, they begin to have puberty changes. They also start to get more curious about sex. More of their friends are talking about sex, and more of the shows and magazines that they see have materials about sex. They might have questions about their body changes and sex, pregnancy and sex, "infections" and sex, or any other topic. The best way to answer is to be as honest or direct as you can. Give the best information you have. Even if you are embarrassed, you are teaching them it’s OK to talk about sex. You can explain that "sexuality" is an attraction that happens between two people. "Having sex" is when two people do sexual things together. Of course, as teens get older, you can have more frank discussions with them. We have information at our clinic about talking with teens about sex.
VIDEOS/TV AND COMPUTERS
Teens can spend a lot of time in front of TV and computer screens. It's best to set a daily time limit, so they have time to do their homework and get outside for exercise. It's also good to set limits about what kind of shows they can watch. Keep them away from shows that are violent. Finally, don't forget to talk to them about pornography on the Internet.
Teens can legally start gambling at age 18, and some of them get hooked.
Ten Ideas for Adults Who Care About Teens
(From The Initiative for Violence-free Families & Communities)
Minnesota Health Improvement Partnership Adolescent Health Services Action Team in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health, Updated 2006