"The Age of Rapid Changes"
|During middle adolescence, puberty is well underway, and is complete in many teenagers. There is a decreased preoccupation with the body and an increased involvement with peers. Parental conflicts develop over independence, since the peer group often serves as the adolescent's reference for their standards of behavior.
This age is often called the neglected age of pediatrics, according to pediatrician William Crook, M.D. "It is 'no man's land' between childhood and adulthood." The maturing teen does not want to be treated like a child, and often balks at having to go to the "baby doctor" for checkups. Yet, at the same time, the adolescent does not want to go to a new adult physician who may be unfamiliar with issues important to this age group. The result is that often the youngster ends up going to neither. This is unfortunate since middle adolescence is a period of rapid development during which time checkups are important.
This can be a difficult time for parents, who must cope with their adolescent while trying to keep the channel of communication open. Love your teen with no strings attached.
Parents do best when they understand the normal characteristics of the middle teen years, otherwise known as the five "I"'s and six "M"'s (courtesy of the Parent and Child Guidance Center, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania)
The five "I's"
- Immediate (wanting everything now)
- Industructable (thinking nothing can hurt them, they can not get pregnant, they will not get into an auto accident, etc.)
The six "M's":
Parenting and Behavioral
- Basic survival strategies for parents of adolescents are (courtesy of the Parent and Child Guidance Center, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania):
1. Choose your battles carefully. Settle for something less than perfection on issues that don't really matter. Remain calm, and don't match his/her level of emotional intensity.
2. Be available to your adolescent without directing or controlling him/her. The time when they want you is often at teen's choosing, not yours. Be there if possible.
3. Help him/her regulate his/her lifeand consider alternatives.
4. Establish networks with parents of your teen's friends, even if they are new to you.
5. Let teens know they can always call you when in trouble, without fear of recrimination.
- Parents should remember that adolescents can be especially worried about their bodies, diets and sexual abilities. Will they be normal? Can they perform? How will others perceive them? Parents need to remember that the adolescent's interest in body changes and sexual topics is a natural, normal development and does not necessarily indicate movement into sexual activity. One must take care not to label emerging instinct/behaviors as "wrong," "sick" or "immoral." ." Nor should parents jump to conclusions about behaviors based soley on hunches or feelings.
- Increased emotionality is a hallmark of the period. Teens can be excessively modest, insecure and feel isolated and alone, as they discover the tenuousness of their peer relationships.
- Adolescents usually require privacy in which to contemplate changes taking place within their own bodies. Ideally the youth should be allowed to have his/her own room, but if this is not possible some private space needs to be made available so the teen can go and not be bothered by older or younger siblings or parents!
- Teasing an adolescent child about physical changes is inappropriate, because it may cause self-consciousness and embarrassment.
- The teenager's quest for independence is normal development and need not be looked upon by the parent as rejection or a loss of control. Examples include (1) young teenagers may not want to join the family on all family outings; (2) Young teens may not want their parents around the school at social functions as chaperones; (3) Young teens may begin to confide in an adult outside the family rather than in mothers or fathers as in previous years.
- To be of most benefit to the growing adolescent, parents need to remain a constant and consistent figure, available as a sounding board for the youth's ideas without dominating and overtaking the emerging, independent identity of the young person.
- Most 14-year olds focus on social life, friends and school. They have chosen friendships with members of the same sex. Sometimes, a teenager's best friends becomes a parent substitute and confidante. These friendships, however, may change abruptly, causing hurt feelings.
- Teens need to learn to respect the rights and needs of others, follow family rules, such as those for curfews, television viewing, and chores. Share in household chores.
- Parents need to serve as a positive ethical and behavioral role model.
- Teach the adolescent techniques for resisting peer pressure.
- Parents should learn the signs of adolescent depression and drug abuse!
Characteristics of the "teen friendly" parent:
- Praises, approves, supports and shows interest in their adolescent. Attends events in which their son or daughter is a participant.
- Encourages reasonable independence, friendships and interests outside of the home.
- Finds time to be with and listen to the adolescent.
- Is a good ethical and behavorial model.
- Establishes realistic expectations for family rules, with increasing responsibility given to the adolescent.
- Establish and communicate clear limits and consequences for breaking rules. Does not repeatedly warn or threaten. Simply follows the protocol already agreed upon and is consistent.
- Is present at home or makes arrangements for the adolescent's supervision in their absence.
- Assigns chores around the home and provides an allowance.
- Demonstrate interest in the adolescent's school activities and emphasize the importance of school.
- Takes pleasure in their son's or daughter's abilities and achievements
- Respects the adolescent's privacy - bedroom, bathroom, mail, phone calls.
- Enhances the teens self-esteem by providing praise and recognizing positive behavior and achievements.
- Minimizes criticism, nagging, derogatory comments, and other belittling or demeaning messages.
- Is not necessarily the teens best friend. Remembers that their role is to teach and parent
- Shows respect for their teen. Listens to their side without interrupting or judging.
- Gets to know their teen's friends, and avoids making quick judgments based on appearance only. Whenever possible, avoids downgrading their friends.
- Encourages their son or daughter to invite peers home.
- Allows their son or daughter to make age-appropriate decisions and selections (for example, choosing clothes).
- Involves their teen in decision making regarding their role in family chores, supervision of younger sibling, etc.
- Assumes a role in the teen's sex education, perhaps with the help of books recommended by the physician
Traits of the adolescent who is doing well:
- Is in good health or functions up to capacity if has a chronic condition; has good food habits.
- Believes he/she will do well.
- Has self-confidence and a sense of pride and competence.
- Enjoys close interactions with peers (especially same-sex friendships).
- Enjoys recreational activities.
- Recognizes the need for rules and fair play.
- Is energetic, enthusiastic and vital.
- Has reasonable athletic ability.
- Has dramatic, artistic or musical talents.
- Does well in school.
- Takes appropriate responsibility for homework with little prodding.
- Assumes responsibility for his/her own health.
- Is comfortable in asking parents questions.
- Generally cooperative and considerate, although at times is inconsistent and unpredictable.
Oral Health for the Adolescent
Brushes teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and flosses daily.
Knows what to do in the cause of a dental emergency, especially the loss or fracture of a tooth.
Has seen a dentist within the last six months unless your dentist determines otherwise based on his/her individual needs/susceptibility to disease
Does not smoke or use chewing tobacco.
Nutrition for the Adolescent
14-year olds seem to eat continuously and appetite rarely is a problem. Unfortunately, many 14 and 15 year olds consume fast foods daily. They eat snacks that are high in calories and fat.
Eat three meals per day. Breakfast is especially important. Do your best to make sure your 14-year old has a nutritious breakfast daily.
Choose a variety of healthy foods.
Choose nutritious snacks rich in complex carbohydrates. Limit high-fat or low-nutrient foods and beverages such as candy, chips or soft drinks.
Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables; breads, cereals and other grain products; low-fat dairy products; lean meats; and foods prepared with little or no fat. Include foods rich in calcium and iron in your diet. Girls may suffer anemia at this time so make sure they are receiving sufficient iron in their diet to replace menstrual losses.
Select a nutritious meal from the school cafeteria or pack a balanced lunch.
At this age it is especially important to evaluate your 14-year old's food consumption in relation to the amount of exercise they do. Obesity can be a problem in 14 and 15 year olds. Studies have shown that children who are overweight at this age group have a great chance of being overweight as an adult. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Manage weight through appropriate eating habits and regular exercise.
You may think that your 14-year old "sleeps" their life away (especially on weekends), but many children this age are actually sleep-deprived. Children this age need 9-10 hours of sleep per night. Lost sleep can not be made up later.
Is your teen having trouble sleeping at night?
One would think that teenagers have enough to deal with without having sleep problems too. Yet many teenagers suffer from a variety of sleep disorders, many of which are exacerbated by early-morning school schedules and late night social lives.
Not being able to fall asleep after going to bed at night, or even waking up after falling asleep or waking up too early in the morning, is usually referred to as INSOMNIA. The causes of insomnia are many and can be either minor or be a symptom of something more serious.
In teenagers insomnia is so frequent that it is almost "normal." For some reason teens fall asleep later than they did as children. For example, if a child was used to going to bed at 8 PM, a teen probably is not ready for sleep until l0:00 or l1:00pm (No wonder so many teenagers complain of not being able to fall asleep, and then feeling tired at school the next morning)
The most common cause of insomnia, other that just being a teenager, is stress. Many teenagers have anxiety about a lot of things going on in their lives. For example, family problems, worrying about being popular with friends, fear of flunking a subject, and a bad social experience can all cause trouble with sleep. A schedule that's just too hectic and busy can cause difficulty in falling asleep. Insomnia with early morning wakening is one of the most common features of depression in teenagers. Therefore, a teen with insomnia should be evaluated by their physician to make sure eveything is okay.
Stimulants such as caffeine – from coffee, tea, chocolate or colas – can interfere with sleep for many hours after consumption. Sleep can be interrupted either by making it difficult to fall asleep or by wakening later in the night. Similarly nicotine is also a stimulant and can disturb sleep. Some medicines including tablets used to treat asthma and weight loss have stimulant effects.
Should your teen find him or herself in bed turning and tossing - it is best to sit up, go into another room, and read something that might make them may sleepy (like geometry!), and then try to go to sleep when they get drowsy.
Here are some helpful hints for those night owl teens who suffer from insomnia.
- Go to bed at the same time each day 7 days a week
- A light bedtime snack can promote sleep; hunger is a sleep disrupter
- Set the alarm and get up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much they have slept through the night..
- Have your teen spend 20 minutes in a hot tub or shower a few hours before going to bed
- Avoid napping during the daytime
- Encourage your teen to get regular exercise each day in the late afternoon or early evening but not within 3 hours of going to sleep
- Keep the temperature in their bedroom comfortable.
- Keep their bedroom quiet when sleeping.
- Keep their bedroom dark . Avoid illuminated bedroom clocks
- Suggest your teen use their bed only for sleeping. They should not read, watch television, or eat in bed
- They should take medicines only as directed. by their physician
- Avoid engaging in stimulating activity just before bed. Examples include playing a competitive game of cards or watching an exciting program on television.
- Avoid caffeine. Remember that caffeine is present in chocolate, as well as regular coffee or tea, and caffeinated sodas.
- Suggest to your teen that they should not lie in bed awake for more than half an hour. Instead, get up, move to another room, do some quiet activity (like reviewing geometry) , then return to bed when they are sleepy. They should do this as many times in a night as necessary. The goal is to associate bed with falling asleep easily.
Remind your teen that for best results, these tips should be tried over a period of time. Usually, they will need two to four weeks to see the best results.