Navigating the Teen Years: How Your Pediatrician Can Help
When raising a teen, you might undergo a roller coaster series of emotions. There may even be instances when you want to pull your hair out wondering when everything spiraled downhill. Plus, there are also financial challenges.
You need not worry, teen years aren’t solely about those challenges. It’s also at this stage that you’ll experience countless moments of pure bliss with your teenager, with your heart swelling with pride because of the young adult your child has become.
And, you get to share plenty of laughter and some pretty special moments of closeness with your teenager.
Understanding Your Teen
Adolescence can be quite a bumpy ride. It is that awkward phase when your child is no longer a kid, but not yet an adult either. The changes that happen in their bodies can also be very confusing for them.
Your family gets affected by the changes happening to your teen. For instance, everyone needs to deal with their changing emotions because of the social challenges they need to face. So strive to know what to expect to better guide your teen.
Early adolescence can be a tricky stage for both kids and their families! Your child grows at lightning speed, and with that growth spurt comes pretty noticeable body changes. Your kid starts noticing some hair growth on their underarms and private parts.
If you have a girl, they may begin noticing their breasts develop. For your son, they may observe their testicles getting larger. Often, these changes happen earlier in girls. Some even experience these physical changes as early as eight or nine years old.
Don’t be surprised if suddenly your child begins to feel conscious, or even anxious. After all, this is also the stage when most girls start having their period, some, as soon as their breasts develop. Apart from the physical changes, some kids start to question their gender.
Gender identity among adolescents is more challenging to address though. Plus, they may render a black-or-white perspective of things. This may be tough since they feel like it’s only either perfect or otherwise.
Lastly, your child may be more conscious of how kids their age see them. With this self-consciousness, there is often a need for increased privacy.
So don't be surprised if your teen starts pushing boundaries and reacting strongly when you reinforce limits. It's all part of growing up!
This refers to the ages 14 to 17 –the time when there are changes in a young person's body. For boys, their voices start to crack and they experience acne growth, while girls are likely to have regular periods.
Along with physical changes, teens start to become interested in romantic and sexual relationships. Figuring out their sexuality is tricky and stressful, but masturbation is one way to explore.
It isn’t usual for teens to argue with their parents as they crave independence. They get more focused on appearance and feel peer pressure. They will start to think abstractly. They consider the consequences of their actions but are still prone to acting on impulse.
All these mean that while you need to set boundaries, you still have to acknowledge that this is a rather challenging phase for your family.
Pediatricians refer to this stage as the “adulting adolescence” because this is when your child grows into a young, mature individual. Your child has surpassed their growth spurt, which means that they have already reached their full height.
Often at this stage, young adults know how to make better decisions. Your teen knows to weigh the pros and cons in their decision-making. An example is practicing safe sex or using drugs. They start to establish their own identities and values.
More often, your child gets more focused on their future plans, as well as what they want to achieve in life. But, your family relationship may already take a different note.
That said, parents of teens tend to be advisors and confidants, rather than strict rule-makers.
How Parents Can Help Their Teens
It can be challenging to be a teen, both for the youngster and the parent. However, even during this critical stage, parents keep certain things in mind to help their children.
- Help your child understand the changes they will face: This means discussing with them puberty and sexuality as openly as you can. Your child should be comfortable asking your questions rather than being afraid.
- Start conversations about sensitive topics such as healthy relationships, sex, consent, and substance. Having these discussions early on helps build a strong foundation for later conversations.
- Always keep conversations positive and uplifting. Celebrate your child's successes and strengths, and communicate clear but reasonable expectations about things like curfews, school engagement, media use, and behavior.
- At the same time, give your child some independence and gradually expand their opportunities for more responsibility over time.
- Talk openly about risky behaviors and their consequences, and set a positive example yourself. In this case, when your child is faced with difficult decisions, they are more prepared.
- Honor their independence: Your little one is growing up. So, try to honor their independence and their sense of individuality.
Stay positive and maintain a strong but respectful relationship with your child so that you can journey this stage together effortlessly.
Building a Strong Doctor-Teen Relationship
During checkups with your pediatrician, your teen will undergo the physical exam protocol. At this time, you need to step out. Most parents feel anxious about this so you are not alone if you do. If you don’t know when to get out, ask the doctor beforehand.
The key to this procedure is that both you and your teen are comfortable with this.
One-on-one of your teen with the pediatrician
Your child will eventually need to see the doctor alone. During the visit, the doctor aims to prepare your teen for the transition to adult healthcare with confidence and independence.
Parents struggle on giving independence to their teens which includes managing their healthcare. This entails a significant change for both you and your child, and you might find yourself asking these questions as that of other parents.
- Is it time for this already?
You might be wondering why the doctor is talking about forging a more adult-like relationship with your child before they hit full-on adolescence. This is not because your child is growing up too fast, but yes, parents do feel this is the reason.
The real reason is for the doctor can hear what your child has to say. If you’re in the room, chances are your child will still turn to you for answers. By starting the process, the doctor helps kids become more self-reliant and comfortable answering tougher questions.
- Isn’t my child too young?
The answer depends on what happened during the first one-on-one visit. The earlier your child establishes a connection with their doctor, the more comfortable they will feel during the checkups. The checkup is tailored to your child’s age.
Say your daughter is 12 years old, but she hasn't got her period. In this case, the doctor may not ask about her sexual activity. The pediatrician will encourage your daughter to act like a young adult.
As your children grow and mature, we at Omega Pediatrics aim to connect with your child to be responsible for managing their health. The topics discussed during check-ups fit your child’s developmental stage. We maintain the conversation helpful to your child’s needs.
Addressing Sensitive Issues with Your Pediatrician
Your child's private information is safe with your child’s doctor. Your pediatrician respects your child’s right to privacy. But, there are instances when the doctor needs to do otherwise. When your child becomes a danger to themselves or to others, they need to speak up.
Omega Pediatrics upholds statutory laws on minors' rights to confidentiality which vary across cities and states, but we always prioritize your child's best interests. Not all families may have open communication though, and this is fine.
The important thing is that your child is getting the medical care they need even if certain things need to be kept confidential. This may include sensitive topics on abortion, birth control, and mental health. Doctors want their patients to feel comfortable talking to them.
The mature minor doctrine gives pediatricians guidelines for when we can provide medical treatment based on your child's consent. If the doctor notices that your child is struggling, necessary steps be taken to assess the immediate needs of your kid.
The doctor always involves the parents in decision-making regarding the healthcare of their children. The overall goal is to make your child feel comfortable in taking on the responsibility of managing their health.
Preparing Your Teen for Transition to Adult Care
While parents want to keep their children close, allowing their youngsters independence is a must. Holding your children back puts a strain on your relationship. Most likely they’ll rebel. On the contrary, if you give them independence while guiding them, they’ll appreciate you more.
Treat your struggles with your child as an opportunity to foster independence in them. Before giving in to your child’s requests, tell them that they need to prove first that they’re capable. Guiding your child is trial and error. Let them learn from their mistakes.
The challenge of giving guidance to children is finding a balance between when to give them independence and when to restrict them. When your child is ready for a new challenge, you will have peace of mind knowing that they have the skills to overcome it.
Observing our children and their environment is key to helping them succeed. Just like when we baby-proof our homes, we need to get a "kid's eye view" of the challenges they encounter. This helps us think of how to phase in new privileges and what kind of support and monitoring our children need.
Here’s a step-by-step approach to allowing your children a bigger responsibility. Embrace your child’s independence, even if it means doing it slowly.
Learning to be independent is a process that takes time and effort. As parents, you still worry about your child’s safety and overall well-being. You tend to be protective. Trust in yourself that you did a good job in raising them, allowing them to take control.
When you let your child go, make sure that you still stay connected. Give them guidance and feedback. Telling a little child what to do is different from providing advice to a young adult. Effective communication builds a healthy relationship.
There will still be conflicts and disagreements, but the key is to always approach your child with respect.
Practice What You Preach
You are your child’s role model so make sure that you do as you say. This way, your child will most likely do the same.
Give Your Teen The Proper Guidance
Parenting gets even more challenging when raising your teen. Give them a bit of independence coupled with the proper guidance. Let them learn from their mistakes. Foster open communication to maintain a healthy relationship.
Your child’s decision may not be aligned with what you have taught them or what you would probably do. Trust that you have given them the proper guidance in making their own decisions.
Every day may be a struggle but believe in yourself that you have done an amazing job in raising your teen. When you instill values in your child, it will also mirror your child’s relationship with his doctor.
We at Omega Pediatrics are here to help you in this stage –communicating with your teen and helping them tackle their physical and emotional health issues. Your child’s doctor is your partner, so breathe easy knowing you are not alone in this journey..