Currently browsing teen health posts

Condoms: Knowing these Facts Could Keep Your Teen Safe

There are a lot of myths about condoms, so make sure that you are aware of the facts before you have sex.

MYTH: It’s safer if you use two condoms.
TRUTH: No it isn’t. Using two condoms at once is a really bad idea, whether it’s two male condoms or a male and female condom. It increases the chances of them ripping. Only use one at a time.

condom factsMYTH: Condoms break easily.
TRUTH: No they don’t. To avoid a condom breaking, you need to put it on carefully, ensuring there’s no airbubble at the end. Be careful of sharp nails, jewelry or teeth. If the condom won’t roll down, it’s the wrong way round. Throw this condom away and start again with a new one as there could be semen on the tip of the previous condom.

If a condom breaks and you’re not using any other contraception, go to a clinic, pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible and ask about emergency contraception. You’ll also need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

MYTH: Condoms are the only type of contraception I need to think about.
TRUTH: No they’re not. Condoms can provide protection from STIs and unintended pregnancy. But to ensure the best protection, it is recommended that you and your partner use a condom and another form of contraception. There are many different types of contraception that can be used, including the implant, injection, coil or the pill. It’s worth exploring all options.

MYTH: You need extra lube. Vaseline is good.
TRUTH: No it’s not. A bit of extra lubrication is good but don’t use anything with oil in it as it can dissolve the condom – that includes baby oil, Vaseline and hand cream. Lipstick has oil in it too. Use a water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly or Durex Play from a pharmacy.

MYTH: Condoms make him less sensitive.
TRUTH: Using a condom doesn’t have to spoil the moment. They can make some men last longer before they come, which is good news for both of you. There are many different sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours of condoms, so enjoy finding the one that suits you both best.

MYTH: Condoms cut off his circulation.
TRUTH: No they don’t. A condom can stretch to 18 inches round. He’ll be fine. There are many different shapes and sizes available to try.

MYTH: I’m on the pill, so we don’t need condoms.
TRUTH: Yes you do. The pill does not protect you or your partner from STIs. Also, if you’ve forgotten to take a pill, been sick or you’ve been using antibiotics, the effectiveness of the pill is reduced and you could still get pregnant.

MYTH: If I ask to use a condom, my partner will think less of me.
TRUTH: Insisting that you use a condom suggests that you know how to take care of yourself and shows that you know what you want, which can be very sexy.

MYTH: You don’t need a condom if you’re having oral sex.
TRUTH: Yes you do. You should use a condom for oral sex because gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes can be passed to each other this way.

MYTH: You have to be 18 to buy condoms.
TRUTH: No you don’t, you can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them free at any age, as well as confidential advice, from community contraception clinics (formerly family planning clinics), Brook centres, sexual health (GUM) clinics, Further Education colleges and young people’s clinics.

MYTH: I don’t need a condom – I only sleep with nice people.
TRUTH: STIs don’t know or care if you’re nice or not. The way someone looks is no indicator of whether they have an STI. Many STIs don’t show any symptoms, so you could infect each other without even knowing it.

MYTH: If it’s a condom, it’s safe.
TRUTH: Not necessarily – novelty condoms aren’t safe. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE or Kite mark, which is a recognised safety standard. Also check the date on the packet as condoms don’t last forever.

 





How to Cope with Teen Arguments, Aggression and Violence

Many parents find that when their child becomes a teenager, their behaviour becomes more challenging. But how do you cope if they become aggressive or even violent towards you?

If you’re experiencing aggression or violence from your teen, you’re not alone. A recent Parentline Plus survey found that 60% of calls (between October 2007 and June 2008) included verbal aggression from a teenager, and 30% involved physical aggression, much of it aimed at the parent themselves.

teen aggression and violenceIt is common to keep this kind of abuse behind closed doors and not confide in anyone. Many parents feel  that they have failed to control their child, or that they are responsible for the behaviour in some way – or they may not know where to turn.

However, any kind of aggression can be stressful, and can cause an atmosphere of tension and fear for the entire family, not to mention the possibility of physical harm if their teen becomes violent.

No parent should feel obliged to put up with an unruly teen, and as with any type of domestic abuse, help and support is available. You can find appropriate organisations and helpline numbers (*for the UK)  in “Help and Support” further below. There are also a number of techniques and tips that you might find helpful.

Defusing Heated Arguments

It’s useful to remember that your own behaviour can improve or worsen an aggressive situation, so it’s important to be a good role model for your teen.

Linda Blair, clinical psychologist working with families, advises: “Bear in mind that you are their principal role model. If you act aggressively but tell them not to, they won’t listen. It’s also helpful to remember that their anger is often based on fear – fear that they’re losing control.”

With that in mind, it is worth trying to maintain a calm and peaceful presence. You need to be strong without being threatening. Remember that your body language, as well as what you say and how you say it, should also reflect this.

Avoid staring them in the eye, and give them personal space. Allow them the opportunity to express their point of view, then respond in a reasoned way.

Breathing Exercises to Control Anger

If an argument becomes very heated, Linda suggests that you “stop for a moment”. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then exhale. Repeat five times. This technique is very useful in intense situations.

If your teen is becoming aggressive during arguments, suggest this technique to them when they’re calm, so they too have a way of controlling their anger.

If an argument feels out of control, you can also try explaining to them that you are going to walk away, and that you’ll come back again in half an hour. Given the chance to reflect and calm down, you and your teen will both be more reasonable when you resume your discussion.

As with toddlers, if you give in to teenagers because their shouting and screaming intimidates or baffles you, you are in effect encouraging them to repeat the unreasonable behaviour as a way of getting what they want.

Counselling for Teenagers

Family Lives is a charity dedicated to helping families. They suggest that if very heated arguments happen frequently, it may be worth suggesting counselling to your teen. They’ll benefit from talking to someone new and unbiased, someone who isn’t in their family and who won’t judge them.

Read more about the benefits of talking treatments.

Remember they may not know how to handle their anger, and this can leave them frustrated and even frightened. Some guidance from an outsider can be very helpful.

Dealing with Violent Behaviour

Sometimes, teen aggression can turn into violence. If they lash out at you, or someone or something else, put safety first.

Let your teenager know that violence is unacceptable and you will walk away from them until they’ve calmed down. If leaving the room or house isn’t helping, call the police – after all, if you feel threatened or scared, then you have the right to protect yourself.

Family Lives offer this advice for coping with, and helping, a violent teen:

  • Give them space – once they have calmed down, you may want to talk to them about what has happened and suggest that they let you find them some help.
  • Be clear – teenagers need to know that you will stand by the boundaries you set. They need to know that any kind of violence is unacceptable.
  • Talk to their school and find out if their aggressive behaviour is happening there as well. Some schools offer counselling.
  • Arrange counselling – if your teen admits they have a problem and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist as soon as possible. Speak to your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor) or their school about what help is available.

Help and Support (*in the UK – see end for resources in other locations)

There are many organisations that offer emotional support and practical advice. Getting some support can help you and your child. At such an important development stage, it’s important that they learn how to communicate well and express anger in a healthy way.

  • You can call Family Lives’ Parentline on 0800 800 2222 any time, or email parentsupport@parentlineplus.org.uk for a personalised reply within three days. They also offer i-parent modules to help you learn more about communicating better with your teen.
  • You can call the Samaritans on 08457 909090 any time to talk about any type of distress and to get confidential support and advice.
  • Youth Access has details about youth organisations and services offering teens counselling, advice and support.
  • Young Minds is a charitable organisation supporting children and young people with mental health issues, and their parents. They provide information to help young people with anger issues. If you discuss your child’s behaviour with them and they are open to getting help, you might like to direct them to the information on the Young Minds website.

Concerned about Mental Health Issues?

If you’re worried that your teen has a mental health problem such as depression, talk to your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor). In the UK, he or she can refer them to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, who in turn can refer all or some of you for Family Therapy. Or contact the Young Minds Parents’ Helpline on 0808 802 5544 for advice and support concerning mental health issues in young people.

If you are having trouble coping with your teenager, and you suspect you may have symptoms of depression or other mental health problems, discuss this with your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor). He or she can then suggest suitable treatment. You may, for example, be referred for counselling, or directed to support groups or other services in your area.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

US Resources for Family and Teen Challenges:

Canadian Resources for Family and Teen Challenges:

Australian Resources for Teen Aggression:

 





How to Boost Your Child’s Bones for Lifelong Health

Children’s bones keep growing throughout childhood. They grow fastest of all very early in life and when children go through puberty.

The bones keep getting denser until they reach what’s known as “peak bone mass”. This usually happens between the ages of 18 and 25.

boost-your-childs-bone-healthThe denser your child’s bones are at the time of peak bone mass, the greater their reserves of bone to protect against the fragile bone disease osteoporosis later in life.

“The reserve of bone you establish during childhood and the teenage years is with you through early adulthood,” explains Dr Paul Arundel, a consultant in paediatric metabolic bone disease at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. “We all start to lose bone mass later in life. If you are starting from a low baseline you are more likely to develop osteoporosis sooner.”

The good news is that you can protect your child’s bone health with some simple lifestyle measures.

Your Child’s Bone-friendly Diet

Building strong bones in childhood requires a range of vitamins and minerals. A healthy, balanced diet will provide this. That means a diet that includes:

  • fruit and vegetables – at least five portions every day (but no more than one 150ml – *about 5 oz – glass of fruit juice)
  • carbohydrates – such as potatoes, pasta, rice and bread (preferably wholegrain)
  • protein – such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
  • dairy products – such as milk, cheese and yoghurts

There are a couple of nutrients that are particularly important for building strong healthy bones.

Calcium for Healthy Bones

Our bodies contain about 1kg (*about 2.2 lbs) of calcium. About 99% of this is found in our bones and teeth – it’s what makes them strong and hard. Most of this calcium is laid down during childhood and the teenage years.

Calcium is particularly vital during puberty when the bones grow quicker than at any other time. Puberty takes place over a number of years, typically sometime between 11 to 15 for girls and 12 to 16 for boys.

The recommended calcium intake for children and young people aged from 11 to 18 is 800-1,000mg compared with 700mg for adults. But research shows that, on average, children and young people in this age group don’t get enough.

“Teens need more calcium because they’re growing,” says Dr Arundel. “People don’t think about bone health in teenagers as much as they do with toddlers, but teenagers are growing a lot more.”

Foods that contain lots of calcium include dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, but also tinned sardines (with the bones in), green, leafy vegetables (but not spinach), peas, dried figs, nuts, seeds and anything that’s fortified with calcium, including some soya milks.

Vitamin D for Kids’ Bone Health

Vitamin D is important for bones because it helps our bodies to absorb calcium.

Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D is made by our skin when it’s exposed to sunlight during the summer months (late March/April to the end of September).

There are only a few foods that are a good source of vitamin D. These include oily fish, eggs and foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals. Read Food for strong bones.

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, the following groups should take daily vitamin D supplements, to make sure they get enough (*US recommendations are similar – click here):

  • All babies from birth to one year of age (including breastfed babies and formula fed babies who have less than 500ml a day of infant formula)
  • All children aged one to four years old

Everyone over the age of five years is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.

But most people aged five years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer (late March/early April to the end of September), so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

It’s important never to let your child’s skin go red or start to burn. Babies under six months should never go in direct sunlight. Find out how to get vitamin D from sunlight safely.

Find out more about who should take vitamin D supplements and how much to take.

If you receive benefits, you may be eligible for free Healthy Start vitamins, which contain vitamin D. Your health visitor can tell you more, or you can visit the Healthy Start website.

Bone-strengthening Exercises for Children

Daily physical activity is important for children’s health and development, including their bone health.

Try not to let your child be sedentary for long periods. You can do this by reducing the amount of time they spend sitting down, for example, watching TV or playing video games.

Children under five who aren’t yet walking should be encouraged to play actively on the floor. Children who can walk on their own should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (three hours) spread throughout the day. This should include some bone-strengthening activities, such as climbing and jumping.

Children aged five to 18 need at least 60 minutes (one hour) of physical activity every day, which should include moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground games.

To strengthen muscles and bones, vigorous-intensity activities should be included at least three times a week. This could be swinging on playground equipment, sports such as gymnastics or tennis, or hopping and skipping.

See 10 ways to get active with your kids.

Eating Disorders and Bone Health

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, both male and female. But girls and women are more likely to be affected and anorexia most commonly develops in the teenage years.

The bones are still growing and strengthening at this time and eating disorders like anorexia can affect their development. Low body weight can lower oestrogen levels, which may reduce bone density. Poor nutrition and reduced muscle strength caused by eating disorders can also lower bone density.

If your teenage child has anorexia or another eating disorder, it’s important to seek medical advice about their bone health.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





Seven Sun Safety Facts Your Teen Needs to Know

For many of us, lying in the sun is the ultimate relaxation. But too much sun can give you wrinkles, sunburn and put you at risk of skin cancer.

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research answers seven important questions about the effect of sun on your skin and the importance of sunscreen.

1. How long can sunburn last?
seven-sun-facts-for-teensDays. You can get sunburnt in just 10 minutes even in the UK. If you overdo it at a festival or on holiday, skin can be red, painful and peeling for a week or more.

Sunburn also damages your skin for life and doubles your risk of skin cancer.

2. What suncream should I use?
Use factor 15 plus with UVA and UVB protection, and apply regularly (every two to three hours). Use more after swimming. The paler your skin is, the greater care you need to take. If you’re blonde, a redhead, have fair skin or lots of moles or freckles, you have a higher risk of skin cancer and need to take extra care.

3. I’m black. Is sun exposure still dangerous?
Yes. Black skin can burn too – it just takes more heat to do it. Although very dark black skin has a natural SPF, we still advise using an SPF of 15; although skin cancer is less common in black people, it tends to be more aggressive. Take particular care of the soles of your feet and palms of your hands, as they’re more prone to skin cancer.

4. Sun makes me feel good. What’s so bad about it anyway?
Right now the worst thing about it might seem like sunburn and strap marks, but give it a few years and you could have wrinkles, moles, freckles, brown patches and, sometimes, skin cancer. Every year, 2,000 people die from malignant melanoma, and skin cancer is the second most common cancer in 20- to 39-year-olds.

5. Is sunbathing really worse when you’re a teenager?
Yes, younger skin is more easily damaged than older skin. And you can’t undo the damage. Once you’ve been sunburnt your skin will age prematurely.

6. I’m still not persuaded. Anything else to put me off?
The most common kind of skin cancer is rarely fatal. But it can be seriously disfiguring. If skin cancer is found on the face it has to be cut out and may even need plastic surgery. There is a risk of permanent scarring, or part of your nose may have to be cut away.

7. Are sunbeds safer?
No. Getting a tan on a sunbed will increase your risk of getting skin cancer and make you look old.

It is now illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds (*in the UK). Find more information on the Cancer Research website.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Click here for a US state-by-state assessment of tanning restrictions for teens.

 





Your Teen and Invisalign: a Smile That Will Last a Lifetime

Between juggling classes, hormones and extracurricular activities, your teen doesn’t have time to worry about straightening his or her smile. When it comes to wearing metal braces, an overwhelming 92% of teenagers feel orthodontic treatment would prevent them from fitting in with their peers.

We understand metal braces may not be an option your teen is willing to consider right now – and younger patients finally have an orthodontic treatment option for a more convenient, comfortable smile…

A brand new smile can make a world of a difference, and unlike traditional braces, Invisalign® aligners are virtually invisible. Manufactured from a smooth, clear plastic, this orthodontic option can be removed at your teen’s convenience to eat, drink, brush or floss. These alignment trays allow patients to easily maintain oral hygiene, eliminate irritating brackets or wires and eat whatever they’d like, all while creating a brand new smile.

Correcting teeth alignment is important, not just cosmetic wise, but for overall health as well, including:

  • Aligned jaw positioning
  • Easier maintenance care (brushing, flossing, etc.)
  • Lower risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay
  • Higher self-esteem

Wearing the comfortable, customized aligners will gradually shift your teen’s teeth into their correct position.  Invisalign offers the best of both worlds: comfortable, efficient straightening with an essentially invisible appearance.

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

  • Initially, your teen will have a consultation to discuss if Invisalign is right for him or her and address any questions or concerns you and your teen may have about the treatment, insurance or costs
  • Once your teen is ready to proceed, x-rays and impressions are administered to create an individual treatment plan – including the position of your teen’s teeth and how they will align with treatment
  • Using your teen’s treatment plan, clear aligners are created customized to your teen’s teeth. He or she will simply wear them every day, taking them out to eat, brush and floss
  • Your teen will advance in the treatment by switching out aligners every two weeks for a fresh set. Your teen will also meet with his or her dentist every six weeks or so to examine his or her progress
  • Full treatment usually lasts around six months to one year for teens

Advantages of Invisalign®

  • Clear aligners are virtually invisible as opposed to metal brackets and wires
  • Aligners are customized to fit your teeth, eliminating discomfort and irritation
  • Aligners are conveniently removable for brushing or cleaning
  • No food restrictions
  • Helps in avoiding periodontal disease, which can stem from misaligned teeth
  • Can alleviate issues such as bite problems, mouth sores and speaking/chewing difficulties

Give your teen the gift that keeps on giving – a brand new smile that will last a lifetime.

How to Reframe Your Child’s Negative, Anxious Self-Talk

Anxious-child-with-negative-thoughtsDo you have a child who is often emotional or moody – or prone to anxiety or depression? If so, you might be familiar with the negative self-talk that often contributes to these conditions. And, actually, any child – or adult – is subject to these thoughts on occasion.

Negative or anxious self-talk – sometimes also called “automatic negative thoughts” – is unhelpful, often skewed thinking that tends to drive negative emotions and behaviors. For example, your daughter might react to a friend who gets angry while playing and goes home, by thinking “I’m no fun to play with….nobody likes me” – and might avoid inviting any other kids to come over and play.

I learned about the concept of negative self-talk years ago through cognitive behavioral therapy while dealing with issues from my childhood. But I was surprised when I first began noticing examples of this thought pattern in my young son. When Elliott was in his first couple of years of elementary school, he would often come home at the end of the day and report that his day was “terrible”.

After digging a little I would often find out that one “bad” thing had happened each of these days – which then tainted the whole rest of the day. This overgeneralization / all-or-nothing thinking is an example of negative self-talk – and caused Elliott to have negative emotions about school and resist going in the mornings.

There are several different types of negative or anxious self-talk. A good reference book on anxiety for teens and kids – My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic (by Michael A. Tompkins, PhD and Katherine Martinez PhD) – gives an interesting classification for these unhelpful thoughts (a summary is listed at the end of this post). This book was recommended to me by a child and family psychologist and is well worth a read.

As the book title suggests, there are ways to deal with and manage such unhelpful thinking – and it’s useful to start early with kids who are prone to negative thoughts. At a minimum, it helps to start by identifying and unpacking the negative thought.

For example, with my son Elliott and his “terrible” days at school, I started asking him if anything good happened during the day. This got him to go over all the events of his time at school and put the “bad” experience into context – and I suggested that one or two bad experiences might not make a whole day terrible. Pretty soon, when I asked him how his day was, Elliott would outline how different parts of the day went (great, so-so, neutral, awful, etc) – and this pattern has persisted for more than five years! Even better, he has generally been much more positive about his school days ever since.

Additional exercises for recognizing and dealing with negative self-talk are provided in My Anxious Mind. Another practical book, with useful exercise to help teens cope with negative thoughts and other drivers of anxiety, is The Anxiety Workbook for Teens, by Lisa M. Schab, LCSW.

Types of Anxious Self-Talk  (from My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic)

Book Ends

This is anxious thinking that assumes there are only two possible outcomes of a situation – both at opposite extremes, with no possibilities in the middle. So, the child in the earlier example might be focused on how the play date with her friend needed to be perfect, and if that didn’t happen it would be a disaster.

Binocular Vision

In this unhelpful thought process, your child will “magnify” the effect of something bad – like failing a test – and assume that he won’t be able to go to college as a result. Or he might “shrink” the importance of something good, like all his excellent grades in other classes.

Fortune Telling

This type of self-talk involves your child thinking he or she can predict the future – usually thinking something bad will happen. For example, your child is engaging in fortune telling if she decides to audition for a part in the school play but spends the weeks leading up to the audition thinking “I’m not going to get the part”. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t – but she doesn’t know, and anxious self-talk won’t help the outcome either way.

Mind Reading

In the earlier example, the girl whose friend got angry and went home assumed that she could read her friend’s mind; that the friend thought she wasn’t fun and didn’t like her anymore. This is the mind reading track – and it’s important for the girl to know she isn’t a psychic and her friend will probably be back to play the next day.

Overgeneralization

With overgeneralization, similar to binocular vision, your child will focus on something small (usually bad) to make broad conclusions or sweeping statements – like, if one friend gets angry at me then no one likes me. Or if your son has one bad soccer game, assuming he’s no good and will get cut from the team.

End of the World

With this anxious track, your child is always expecting something terrible to happen. This could be at school or in relationships with friends, but it could also be thinking that every noise around the house is a burglar.

Should-y/Must-y Thinking

Too many thoughts with “shoulds” and “musts” can set the bar for performance and life experience way too high – and make your child anxious and less confident.

Mind Jumps

In this type of unhelpful thinking your child will jump to conclusions (usually negative) without all the facts – like when hearing that he isn’t invited to a party at a friend’s house, your son assumes his friend doesn’t like him. Getting the facts might tell him otherwise, especially if he finds out it’s a family-only affair (for example).

 

Next Page »