Raising Healthy Teens: Let’s Talk Bullying, Sexual Health, and More!
Raising a teenager in today’s world isn’t easy. Your child’s mind and body are changing rapidly during adolescence. At the same time, they’re also trying to forge their identity and independence under new sets of pressures. On top of the age-old temptations of rebellion, today’s teenagers have to deal with the pressures of bullying, sexual health, and social media in an online world.
As a parent, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your teenager to help guide them through this difficult life phase – even if they can be moody, hormonal, and speak mainly in eye rolls!
Our Wello Nurse Practitioners prepared a list of common issues teenagers face and put together a few tips for how parents can speak to their kids about teen health.
1) Caring about mental health
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 1.2 million Canadian children and teenagers are struggling with a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression. Yet, less than 20 percent will receive appropriate treatment.
As a parent, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between normal teenage mood swings and something more serious – like depression.
Here are some mental health warning signs for teens to look out for:
- Lack of enjoyment with spending time with family and friends
- Significant decrease in academic performance
- School absenteeism
- Difficulty with memory, attention, and concentration
- Changes in energy, eating patterns, and sleeping behaviours
- Physical issues: stomach aches, headaches, and backaches
- General sadness or bursts of crying
- Describing their situation as “hopeless”
- Aggression: both verbal and physical
- Lack of care for personal hygiene
- Substance abuse
- Finding the best time to speak to your teenager can be difficult. One way to have a difficult conversation with your teen about their mental health, is to shift the focus away from themselves and instead speak about someone else in a similar situation.
- Whether it’s watching a movie, YouTube video or the television – entertainment avenues are ideal ways to spark up a conversation about mental health.
- Check out more suggestions from Canada’s Own ‘Right by You’ campaign on how to find the best time and place to talk to your teenager.
- There are many crisis centres available 24 hours a day to talk to you or your teen, visit Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention for resources.
2) Tackling bullying
Bullying is a significant problem for Canadian teenagers – especially in the age of social media. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, at least 1 in 3 teenage students in Canada have recently reported being bullied.
Bullying can have devastating effects, including:
- poor academic performance
- missing or skipping school
- If you think your teenager is being bullied, you should encourage them to talk about it. Be supportive when you are providing a listening ear and make sure to contact their teachers if you worry they are being bullied – most educational institutions have anti-bullying codes of conduct.
- In the case of cyberbullying, ensure a record is kept of any emails, chat history, or social media posts as well as messages. Records can be important evidence that you can take to your teenagers teachers, principal, or even to the police if you need to do so.
- Prevnet has more resources to help you understand bullying and also outlines ways to support your teen.
3) Talking about sexual health
Just over a quarter of Canadian teens are sexually active: a recent study showed that 30 percent of Canadian teens aged 15-17 were sexually active. Whether its knowing the risks of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or understanding the dangers associated with “sexting”– it’s vital your teen has the resources to arm themselves with safe sexual health practices.
Most schools have sexual education programs but as a parent it’s still equally important to let your teenager know that they can come to you for support. In fact, research shows that an open dialogue with parents and teens can have a very positive influence on their sexual behaviour and ongoing intimate relationships.
- Be honest, direct and non-judgmental when speaking with your teenager about sexual health and always consider your teen’s point of view.
- Talk about peer pressure, whether its peer pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend or a friend group. Explain that your teen is under no obligation to make a decision they are not comfortable with. Also have an open discussion about alcohol and drugs and the role they can play with impairing judgment and reducing inhibitions, leading to risky behaviours.
- Check out the Mayo Clinic Guide about taking to your teen about sex for more tips on how to navigate challenging conversations with your teenager.
- Another credible website for teen health comes from the Canadian Pediatric Society, with a full section on Teen health and other parenting resources.
Say Hello To Wello
Unsure of how to start difficult conversations with your teenager, or want to brush up on the facts about teen health risks? Wello’s Nurse Practitioners provide compassionate, confidential and non-judgmental health advice and will happily help you prepare for awkward conversations. They can also refer your teen to a psychologist for counselling and work with your family doctor to tackle any issues they face.