Middle adolescence is a great time, filled with growth and maturity. Most girls at this age are nearing the end of puberty, while most boys are in the middle of the process. Peers and acceptance is the predominant focus of most 14 and 15 year olds. This is the age in which most teens are internalizing their moral values and deciding what really matters to them.
- Substance Use and Abuse: This topic must be addressed. It is not unreasonable to have the expectation that your adolescent should NOT use tobacco, drugs, alcohol, inhalants, diet pills, etc. However, adolescents see through double standards. Do not tell your adolescent not to smoke if you smoke. Show him or her a good example, stop. Discuss peer pressure openly and honestly. By opening the conversation with “Do your friends do…” rather than “Do you do…” you are more likely to get an honest answer and it can open the door of communication. If your teen is already involved with substance abuse, seek help. Did you know that 72% of 9th graders have experimented with alcohol and 66% have tried cigarettes (according to a recent CDC national survey)? If you think it’s not a problem, you’re wrong. Discuss what happens at parties and strategies to avoiding situations where drugs and alcohol are present.
- Car: Wear seat belts when riding in vehicles. Fact: Accidents are the #1 cause of death in this age group. Use caution and good judgment when riding with teen drivers.
- Smoking: Make sure your home and cars are smoke free zones. Also, check smoke alarms to ensure that they work properly and change batteries annually. Review your family’s plan in case of a fire; is there a designated meeting place?
- Weapons: Do not carry or use a weapon of any kind. Household guns need to be unloaded and locked (Disturbing Fact: More children are killed from guns every year than are intruders).
- Abuse: Teach your teen strategies to protect themselves from abuse of any type (physical, emotional, sexual/rape). Make sure they seek help if they feel they are in danger.
- Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Some need more.
- Eat 3 nutritious meals a day and healthy snacks.
- Limit high fat and high sugar foods.
- Limit soda and other high calorie drinks.
- Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, lean meats, chicken, fish, and low fat dairy products.
- Ensure your teen gets 3 servings of dairy a day for adequate calcium. If not, you may need to take a calcium supplement.
- Eat meals as a family (around a table with the television off). Not only does eating together as a family develop good nutritional habits, it has multiple lasting effects on the social support of a family. Family dinner is a great time to discuss what is happening in your teen’s world.
- Model good eating habits.
- Keep in mind is it very difficult to eat healthy when eating out (especially at fast food restaurants).
- Unless your teen eats a perfectly balanced diet, he or she likely needs a multivitamin once a day. Otherwise, other supplements are not necessary unless specifically directed by your physician.
- Continue to brush and floss teeth twice a day.
- Schedule appointment to see a dentist every 6 months.
- Fluoride supplementation, this depends on the level of fluoride in the drinking water in the city where you live (your pediatrician or dentist can prescribe it if needed).
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco. It ruins teeth and gums.
- Identify an appropriate adult to give accurate information.
- Discuss with your doctor questions about sexual development, contraception, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention.
- Have open discussions about sex. It is a common misconception that discussing it is condoning it. Quite the contrary, education is empowerment. Educate your teen. Tell him or her what your beliefs and expectations are.
- Recognize that sexual feelings are normal, but sex should be a well thought out decision. Engaging in sex comes with a lot of responsibilities and consequences; one should delay having sex until mature enough to handle it.
- Learn how to say no to sex.
- Practice abstinence, it is the only 100% effective STI and pregnancy prevention method.
- If your teen is already sexually active, you must discuss safe sex practices (contraception, condoms, etc).
- If teens are concerned or confused about their sexual feelings (for the same or opposite sex), they should talk with their doctor or trusted adult.
- Teach teens to trust their feelings. Listen to the ideas of good friends and trusted adults.
- Talk to your doctor or trusted adult if you regularly feel angry, hopeless, or depressed.
- Continue to develop sense of self. This is an age where many decide what they value and believe.
- Learn to set goals. Achieving them builds confidence.
- Learn constructive strategies for dealing with stress.
- Discuss openly peer pressure, how to handle negative peer pressure, and the importance of good friends.
- Limit total media time (TV, movies, video games, computer time) and phone time to no more than 2 hours a day, ideally less than 1 hour. Set up safeguards on home computers to prevent inappropriate material/child predators from entering your home via your computer.
- Engage in 30-60 mins of physical activity 3 or more times a week.
- Respect family members and family rules (e.g., curfew). Share in household chores.
- Emphasize the importance of school. At this age, your teen needs to take responsibility for home work, attendance, course selection, and extracurricular activities. Discuss openly any frustrations he or she may be having at school or thoughts about dropping out.
- Begin to think about life after high school and plans (e.g., college, military, vocational options).