Print, Share, or View Spanish version of this article. Adolescence is the time between childhood and adulthood when your daughter or son will go through many physical and emotional changes. It begins with puberty which, for girls, usually starts between 8 and 13 years of age, and for boys, between 10 to 14 years of age.
Though these years can be difficult, it can also be a rewarding time watching your teen make the transition into an independent, caring, and responsible adult. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to help you and your teen navigate adolescence.
Teen will be the term used in this publication when referring to adolescent, teenager, preteen, and tween. Spend family time with your teen. Although many teens may seem more interested in friends, this does not mean they are not interested in family. Spend time alone with your teen.
Even if your teen does not want time alone with you, remind him or her often that you are always available to listen or talk. One way to make yourself available is to offer rides; a great opportunity to talk if the radio isn't too loud. Respect your teen. It's OK to disagree with your teen, but disagree respectfully, not insultingly. Don't dismiss his or her feelings or opinions as silly or senseless. You may not always be able to help when your teen is upset about something, but it is important to say, "I want to understand," or "Help me understand.
When rules are needed, set and enforce them. Don't be afraid to be unpopular for a day or two.
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Believe it or not, teens see setting limits as a form of caring. Try not to get upset if your teen makes mistakes.
This will help your teen take responsibility for his or her actions. Direct the discussion toward solutions. For example, saying, "I get upset when I find clothes all over the floor," is much better than, "You're a slob. Be willing to negotiate and compromise. This will teach problem solving in a healthy way. Remember to choose your battles.
Let go of the little things that may not be worth a big fight. Criticize a behavior, not an attitude. For example, instead of saying, "You're late.
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That's so irresponsible. And I don't like your attitude," try saying, "I worry about your safety when you're late. I trust you, but when I don't hear from you and don't know where you are, I wonder whether something bad has happened to you. What can we do together to help you get home on time and make sure I know where you are or when you're going to be late?
Mix criticism with praise. Your teen needs to know how you feel when he or she is not doing what you want him or her to do. Be sure to mix in positive feedback with this criticism.
For example, "I'm proud that you are able to hold a job and get your homework done. I would like to see you use some of that energy to help do the dishes after meals. Let your teen be a teen. Give your teen some leeway with regard to clothes, hairstyle, etc. Many teens go through a rebellious period in which they want to express themselves in ways that are different from their parents. However, be aware of the messages and ratings of the music, movies, and video games to which your teen is exposed.
Be a parent first, not a friend. Your teen's separation from you as a parent is a normal part of development. Don't take it personally.
Don't be afraid to share mistakes you've made as a parent or as a teen. Talk with your teen's pediatrician if you need advice on how to talk with or get along with your teen.
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How can I help her lose weight safely? Many teens resort to extreme diet or exercise programs because they want their bodies to look like the models, singers, actors, or athletes they see in the media. Be aware of any diet or exercise program your daughter is following.
Be watchful of how much weight she loses and make sure the diet program is healthy. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be very dangerous. If you suspect your daughter has an eating disorder, talk with her doctor right away.
Also, if you have a son, it's important to be aware of his diet or exercise habits too. Many diets are unhealthy for teens because they do not have the nutritional value that bodies need during puberty. If your daughter wants to lose weight, urge her to increase physical activity and to take weight off slowly. Let her eat according to her own appetite, but make sure she gets enough fats, carbohydrates, protein, and calcium.
If your daughter decides to become a vegetarian, make certain she follows a healthy vegetarian diet. She may need to see her doctor or a nutritionist to ensure that she is getting enough fat, calories, protein, and calcium. If your teen like many teens is unhappy with the way she looks, encourage healthy exercise. Physical activity will help stop hunger pangs, create a positive self-image, and take away the "blahs. Help create a positive self-image by praising her wonderful qualities and focusing less on her appearance.
Set a good example by making exercise and eating right a part of your daily routine also. Limit fast-food meals. Discuss the options available at fast-food restaurants and help your teen find a healthy, balanced diet. Fat should not come from junk food but from healthier foods such as low-fat cheese or low-fat yogurt.
Keep the household supply of junk food such as candy, cookies, and potato chips to a minimum. Stock up on low-fat healthy items for snacking such as fruit, raw vegetables, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat yogurt. Encourage eating fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Check with your teen's doctor about the proper amounts of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates for your teen. As a parent, model good eating habits. Make mealtime family time 5 times per week or more —eating meals together helps with communication and reduces teen risk-taking. Teens females and males are naturally curious about sex.
This is completely normal and healthy. However, teens may be pressured into having sex too soon by their peers or the media. Talk with your son to understand his feelings and views about sex. Start early and provide him with access to information that is accurate and appropriate. Delaying sexual involvement could be the most important decision he makes.
Before your teen becomes sexually active, make sure you discuss the following topics:. Medical and physical risks. Risks include unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, syphilis, herpes, HIV the virus that causes AIDSand HPV human papillomavirus—the virus that can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, cervix, and genitals in teens and adults. Emotional risks. Teens who have sex before they are emotionally ready may regret the decision when they are older or feel guilty, frightened, or ashamed from the experience.
Your teen should ask himself or herself, "Am I ready to have sex? Promoting safer sex. Anyone who is sexually active needs to be aware of how to prevent unintended pregnancies, as well as how to protect against STIs. Condoms should always be used along with a second method of contraception to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of STIs.