The teenage years are difficult. It’s easy for us to forget that, whether it’s because we found the teenage years easier than our peers or because being an adult can be harder. During the teenage years, the hormones are all over the place. Parts of the body develop in ways that can be confusing and strange.
This is the time of life that certain health topics are important, and they’re best discussed with an adult your teenager trusts. That falls on you. As a parent, you need to touch on some of the more difficult and sometimes embarrassing subjects.
While there are plenty of topics like relationships, dating, and money, there are certain health topics that need to be covered frequently. Here are the six most important health topics you will want to discuss with your teenagers.
Dealing with Acne and Blackheads
Acne is one of the most common issues that teenagers will deal with, and it doesn’t just stop with the teenage years. We can suffer from acne for the rest of our life. It’s just usually worst between the ages of 11 and 18 years. More than 80% of people will suffer from acne, with some witnessing the odd zit and others breaking out in multiple pimples every single day.
It’s a topic you’ll want to cover with your teenager. Many people incorrectly assume that acne is caused by dirt or because of the food they eat. This isn’t always the case. For some, acne is hereditary or it’s just because of the hormone changes in life. However, there are some links to dirt and grime, as the pores become blocked and allow acne-causing bacteria to grow within the pores.
Acne can be embarrassing. Some teenagers do experience bullying because of their acne, despite everyone else dealing with it too. You’ll want to discuss the potential of this happening, while also discussing triggers and reasons.
One of the most common triggers for pimples is stress. Girls tend to get pimples when their hormones fluctuate the most during their periods.
Teenagers want to get rid of acne as soon as possible and they will try anything and everything. You may find your teen goes for specialist products on the shelves or starts researching other options. It’s worth discussing all the herbal and over the counter options. Help your teenager find something that works, encouraging to try for a few weeks for the body to get used to the products.
You’ll also want to discuss what not to do with pimples. Encourage teenagers to leave the zits alone. It’s hard not to pop but popping the whiteheads can lead to scarring. The skin on the face is sensitive and fragile, so it scars easily. You’ll also want to run over some of the things that your teenager can do to help prevent the acne or any excessive oily/dry skin.
If your teenager is struggling, don’t be afraid to book an appointment with the doctor. There are prescription medications that can help to deal with major hormonal fluctuations and prevent some of the excessive oil production within the skin.
Dealing with Anger Issues
Anger can seem like something outside the realm of health at first until you consider that it’s all linked to the change in hormones and emotions. The teenage years are confusing and stressful. There are new emotions and feelings daily, along with new situations to handle in friendships, at school, and within the family.
Teenagers don’t always know how to express their anger. They don’t even know if it is okay to feel angry. Too many of us focus on the negatives of anger and not why we’re feeling that way. It’s important to help your teenager know that it’s okay to feel angry and find the best ways to cop and express that anger.
Bad moods and anger aren’t the same things, so helping your teenager understand the differences between the two is also important. The more they understand the way they feel and why they feel that way, the easier it will be for them to express anger in suitable and productive ways. You’ll also want to let your teenager know that they can come talk to you about their feelings and why they may be experiencing anger.
It’s also worth discussing the warning signs of anger. Many people experience a pounding heart and tight chest. Anxiety and shaking are perfectly normal, along with tensing the body and gritting the teeth. Teenagers can become defensive and snappy, temporarily losing their sense of humor and feel like taking things out on inanimate objects and even people.
You may be tempted to ignore the anger issues, feeling like they’re just a phase. This will just make things worse. Your teenager needs to be able to release the feelings in a calm and collective way. They need to get to the bottom of the reasons for their anger. This can often mean following anger management tips, including deep breathing and letting off steam through something physical, such as going for a run or taking up boxing/kickboxing.
Discuss Periods and the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle and periods are completely normal for teenage girls. Many girls will start their periods around 12 years old, although some may start a little earlier or a little later. There’s no wrong or right time, although if your teenager gets to mid-teenage years and still hasn’t started it is worth booking a doctor’s appointment.
Periods are a confusing and sometimes embarrassing time for teenagers. Even though they’re natural, they can be painful and lead to physical symptoms. Blood stained clothes are one of the most common side effects, which can lead to embarrassment if a teenager isn’t ready for their first period or hasn’t quite gained an understanding of their cycle.
The first thing to do is discuss the cycle and what to expect. While many schools will have already gone through this, talking with parents is beneficial. Many teenage girls won’t want to go to their fathers due to embarrassment, but if you are a single dad or in a two-father household, you’ll want to encourage how normal this is and show that you’re not embarrassed about discussing the subject. If your daughter isn’t comfortable talking about it, then find a trusted female member of the family that your daughter will be more comfortable talking to.
Teenage girls will need to understand a little about the cramps they experience. The pain is when the uterus muscles contract and the pain can range from mild to severe. In many cases, women can use a hot water bottle or some pain relief. Exercise can also sometimes help to ease the pain. However, doctors can prescribe medication if the pain is severe. There’s no need to be embarrassed. Pain affects everyone differently.
Your daughter will also need to understand more about premenstrual syndrome, also referred to as PMS. This is distressing, especially for young girls. It may be normal and expected, but it takes time to understand the different feelings and symptoms. Some teens will deal with migraines and mood swings, but there are also food cravings, bloating cognitive declines, and fatigue to deal with. You want to go through all the symptoms and offer ways that can help to manage the feelings and side effects, including yoga, exercise, extra sleep, and a healthy diet.
If you can, have this discussion before your child starts their first period. This will give you chance to go through the first period. Most start slowly, so there are warning signs and little blood, to begin with. Make sure your child has a stash of sanitary towels with them at school and share ways to have one on them always without anyone else realizing to help them avoid embarrassment.
It’s worth sharing how most of their friends will start around the same time. One of their friends will likely have an emergency stash of sanitary towels if your child has forgotten her own. Being open with girlfriends about this can help to gain extra support and understanding for mood swings and feelings.
You’ll also want to discuss the options for managing periods. Discuss the different sanitary options and how to use them. Most young girls will want towels/pads first, but you can eventually talk about tampons and even cups. You’ll want to discuss what to do with them after use, such as disposing of them in sanitary bins and not down the toilet.
As your teenagers get older, discuss the medical options to help manage periods. The contraceptive pill or coil is not just for preventing pregnancies. They can help to manage the cycles and even reduce the pain felt.
Changes to the Body
All teenagers will go through changes in the body. Some of these are internal but others are physical. For young girls, the growing breasts are the biggest chances that teenagers will experience. The body gains an influx of estrogen, which can lead to the growth of breast tissue.
It’s important to discuss how normal the growth of breasts is and talk about buying bras. You’ll want to make sure your teenager has a bra that fits comfortably and properly. Talk about getting measured and making sure the bra sits properly at the back. An ill-fitting bra can lead to some health problems with the breast tissue.
Growing breasts can lead to some pain. This is usually normal, but it should only be mild and infrequent. If there is a lot of pain, it’s important to see a doctor.
You’ll also want to discuss checking the breasts for signs of breast cancer and other lumps. Not all lumps are cancerous, but it’s worth checking the whole breast tissue on a regular basis.
If you have teenage boys, there are other changes to the body that you’ll want to discuss. One of those is the sudden drop in the voice, which can lead to some squeakiness now and then. While teenagers will laugh, all boys will go through this eventually. It’s perfectly normal and you’ll want to make sure your son is ready for it.
It’s also the time to talk about the genitals. Your teenage boy will likely have already heard about their genitals in school, but you’ll want to make sure your son knows he can come to you with problems. It’s a topic that many boys prefer to talk to their father about but like with single- or two-father households, as a single- or two-mother household you’ll want to make sure your son knows he can come to you; or find a trusted male in the family to discuss this.
An involuntary erection is normal during the teenage years. Help your son understand that there may not be an obvious cause and that they will go away after a short period of time. There’s nothing to be worried about and stress can make things worse. Wet dreams are also common and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Talking About Sexual Relationships
While you may not want to discuss sex with your 13-year-old, the teenage years is when most boys and girls will start to think about sex. They will get sexual education classes at school and peers will bring up the subject. Teenagers are curious.
Rather than pretending the subject doesn’t happen, it’s worth discussing it with your teenagers. There are a few topics to discuss when it comes to sexual relationships and they can link to both mental and physical health.
Let’s start with the mental health. Teenagers can start to realize they’re not attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Or they may find that they’re attracted to people of both genders. Homosexuality and bisexuality are common and it’s important to let your teens know they don’t need to hide that from you. You may be disappointed on the inside, but your teenagers need you to be supportive as they learn more about themselves.
Without your support, their mental health can take a dive. They worry that something’s wrong with them or that they’re a constant disappointment. They fear what you will see and stress about their feelings a lot more. Teens can feel like they must hide who they really are, which can affect their self-esteem and lead to some anger issues.
Then it comes to the physical health. Regardless of gender, make sure your teens know all about safe sex. Go through the age of consent for the state and what consent really means. Just because they want to have sex, doesn’t mean their partner wants it. “No” really does mean no.
You’ll want to run through all about contraception options. This isn’t just about protecting against pregnancy, but also about protecting against sexually transmitted diseases. Discuss the different sexually transmitted infections, including the truth about them. For example, herpes is the most common and many young adults have no idea they have it. The symptoms can be non-existent and in most of cases, the infection isn’t dangerous. However, there are other sexually transmitted infections that are dangerous, and your teenagers need to know about the warning signs.
While you don’t want your teens to have sex at a young age, you also need to keep communication open. Make sure your teenagers know that if there is a situation like an unexpected pregnancy or an infection, you want to know right away. While you may be disappointed, you won’t be angry, and you will keep an open mind to help.
Alcohol, Smoking, Drugs, and Peer Pressure
It’s not just sex that will come up in conversation during the teenage years. Friends will discuss alcohol, smoking, drugs, and a lot more. These are topics that you’ll want to talk about when your children are old enough. And this doesn’t mean waiting until they are of legal age! Many children will try smoking and alcohol long before they’re at a legal age.
While you will want them to wait until they’re legally allowed to, most teenagers won’t. They’ll give into peer pressure. What your teenager needs to know is that you will be there if they need it. Make a pact that you’ll pick your teenager up if they find themselves drunk at a party with no legal and safe way home. You won’t be angry or disappointed, but happy that they’ve made a sensible decision for all.
Go through the health issues linked to the various drugs and alcoholic beverages. Share symptoms of drunkenness and how to know when they’ve had enough. Talk about signs that their drinks have possibly been spiked and dangers of illegal drugs. You’ll also want to discuss issues with prescription drugs and addiction.
Reserve judgment and keep the discussions educational and caring. They’re important topics that all teenagers need to go through with parents, knowing that their parents are on the side when needed.
Are You Ready for the Talks?
The teenage years are stressful. There are also sorts of hormonal changes and they can lead to frustration and anger. The body will go through physical changes, whether it’s growing breasts, changing voices, and more acne on the face. Then there is peer pressure, drinking, and sex to discuss.
Sit your teenager down and discuss the different health topics. These talks will helps support both physical and mental health, helping your teen know that you are there when they need you. Avoid judgment and anger but keep the discussion calm and open. This is the easiest way to ensure your teen will remain open with you should the time come.
Check out more topics to discuss with teenagers here: