Teen Health Resources

 

Teenagers and Young Adults at Amherst Pediatrics

Topics of Interest for Teens and Young Adults

Additional Resources

Young Woman's Health
Boston Children's Hospital
Young Men's Health
Boston Children's Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth and Physical Changes

In middle school and early high school, girls will generally be taller than boys. But, look around. There will be a few boys who are very tall, or who have deepened voices, and a few girls who still haven't started to mature physically. These differences can be hard on kids who wonder if they are normal or if they will ever catch up.

Rest assured, these differences are normal. Everyone's growth rate is different but normal for them. Except for your first year of life, physical changes occur more rapidly during adolescence than at any other time.

When and how quickly these changes occur is determined by many things from heredity, to diet, to the environment. During the last century, every generation has been taller than the preceding one. Both boys and girls are maturing earlier than their parents did. Unfortunately, more teen men and women are overweight than ever before.

Many of the physical changes you experience seem out of your control, and they are. But they are not mysterious changes if you understand what is happening, and that it is all a normal part of human growth.

Remember that your parents are dealing with this too, and may be left wondering what happened to their baby. Just as you do, your parents have to adapt to the changes you are undergoing.

During the year of greatest growth, an adolescent boy may add 4 inches in height. Typically boys will grow an average of 8 inches during adolescence. Girls can expect to grow an average of 3 inches during the adolescent years. The rate of growth for girls slows after menstruation begins. So, boys tend to start growing later than girls but keep growing longer.

Boys often lose body fat as they grow while a girl's body will redistribute the fat. After peak growth, boys gain weight again and muscle mass increases for another year or more after full height is reached. From the beginning to end of puberty, boys will have gained an average of 40 pounds and girls will have gained 25 pounds.

As you grow, both your legs and body trunk will lengthen. Your lower jaw will grow changing your facial appearance. Internal organs such as your heart, liver, kidneys, and digestive tract grow during adolescence as well.

Sweat glands have developed and this is the age when you should have started to use deodorant-if not start now!

For boys, the larynx or voice box, becomes larger. While the larynx is growing the boy's voice may "crack". Once the larynx has finished growing, the boy's voice becomes lower and deepens.

Boys begin to grow pubic hair, hair in the armpits (axillae), on legs and arms, and may have the beginning of a mustache on the upper lip.

Girls also grow pubic hair and hair in the armpits, but for girls, hair grows on the arms and legs to a lesser extent than for boys. It is normal for this hair to be darker than the hair on your head.

Adolescence is a time of rapid changes in the reproductive tract as well. The term puberty is used to describe the period of time when your reproductive system matures and physical changes occur that differentiate boys from girls.

For girls, the female hormone estrogen plays a role as breast development occurs, the vagina and ovaries grow and girls start to menstruate. Early periods are often not regular, but will become more predictable as you grow older. Generally, periods should be occurring at predictable intervals within two years of your first period. Either pads or tampons are fine to use, depending on your personal preference. Having your period should not interrupt your life-stick to your normal activity level.

Girls should have their first pelvic exam when they are sexually active, have abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge or have severe pain with their periods.

For boys, reproductive maturity brings growth of the penis and testicles. It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other or to hang lower than the other. There is a wide variation in penis size and male sexual functioning is not dependent on the size of the penis.

The male hormone, testosterone, is responsible for muscle growth, gain in body size, body and facial hair and other male characteristics.

Sometimes boys develop a small amount of breast tissue at the onset of puberty, this is normal and resolves with time.

During this time it is normal to want more privacy. Most adolescents are fascinated by the changes occurring within their bodies, but also wonder if they are normal.

This is a time emotionally, when you may want to be like everyone else, but teenagers need to be aware that being like everyone else means you all develop on your own schedule. If you have real concerns about how you are growing, be sure to talk to your doctor.

We also have brochures and more information on many of these subjects. Feel free to talk to us about any of these topics.

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What About My Brain?

From about 13 to 25 your brain goes through a major wave of growth from back to front.

The front part of your brain is the Prefrontal Cortex. It is like the boss of your brain. It is responsible for impulse control and making choices based on logic. It kind of goes on vacation for a bit while the back and middle parts take over.

The Cerebellum is in the back of the brain and it controls coordination and makes you want to move. It's all about how well you type on a computer keyboard or throw a ball. The Cerebellum kicks off the whole process of growth from back to front.

The midbrain is all about emotion and reward. It likes to mix things up a bit. Your brain is responding to other people and situations in new ways. This can mean you might misread signals like facial expressions or tone of voice, or overrespond emotionally in some situations. The reward part of the midbrain means that you may prefer high excitement, low effort activities. (The video game companies count on this!)

When the midbrain becomes more dominant than the front of your brain, risk-taking, reward, and pleasure seeking begin to play a role in your behaviors.

The boss or "CEO" of your brain (the Prefrontal Cortex) makes choices based on facts and can help control impulses. The tricky part can be that when you need your boss the most, it might not be up to the job. Remember, it finishes growing last when you're around 25 or so.

The good news is, your brain grows stronger and gets more on the job experience every day! Your brain is a bit like wet cement because it is flexible and open at this time. You have to be careful because some things learned can become fairly permanent or 'set'.

This can be good or bad:

  • The more brain connections work together, the stronger they become. This makes sense when you think about the old saying "practice makes perfect" or "use it or lose it".
  • Playing a sport, dancing, reading, playing music, playing video games, drawing or watching TV reinforces the brain connections you are using when you do the activity. What you do matters!
  • And of course the connections you use the least, fade away.
  • The big danger with the brain being so open at this age is that the use of alcohol and other drugs can quickly lead to addiction.

Addiction is basically the brain "over-learning". For example: A 13-year-old has a 43% chance of developing alcohol addiction. At age 21 the risk drops to 10%. If someone in the family is an alcoholic however, the risk can be double due to genetic make-up.

It is important to know that all this brain stuff might start to happen at about the same time as puberty. So for a while lots of things could be happening at once.

Even though everyone is different, you might notice:

  • Sometimes having trouble holding back or controlling emotions.
  • Having different sleep patterns/wanting to stay up late (the brain does this for a while, but you can train it)
  • Liking excitement and low effort activities (video games)
  • Being overly concerned about what other people think of you
  • Not considering possible negative consequences of your actions

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Contraception

Contraception, or preventing pregnancy.......

Contraception, or preventing pregnancy, is extremely important if you are sexually active. No form of contraception is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. The only fully effective way to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections is abstinence.

Oral contraceptives (the "pill") are the most common form of birth control. They work by preventing ovulation in a female body. These are synthetic hormones that cause the body to stop releasing eggs. Since no egg is available to be fertilized, pregnancy cannot occur. Birth control pills do require a prescription.

Nova Ring is a flexible plastic ring inserted into the vagina that is coated with medication found in birth control pills and needs to be changed once monthly.

Depo-Provera is a drug that is given by an intermuscular injection on a periodic basis to prevent pregnancy. It works in much the same way as birth control pills. It requires a prescription.

A condom is a thin rubber sheath worn over the penis. Condoms are helpful to prevent pregnancy and protect against disease so it is recommended that condoms be used even if the woman is taking birth control pills. Condoms can be purchased without a prescription, but must be used correctly to prevent pregnancy.

A diaphragm is a method that prevents pregnancy by creating a barrier that prevents the sperm from entering the female reproductive system. A diaphragm fits over the cervix and is used together with a spermicidal cream, foam, or jelly. (These contain substances that kill the sperm). A cervical cap works in much the same way. These birth control methods both require a prescription.

There are other methods of birth control but they are generally not recommended for adolescents. You may have heard from friends about withdrawing the penis before ejaculation or flushing out the vagina with a solution after sex (douching) but these methods do not work to prevent pregnancy. This is a subject where it is critical that you know the facts. Remember, if you risk getting pregnant, you also risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

There are methods for emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse has occurred. The most common is a pill that contains the female hormone, progestin. It must be taken within five days (120) hours of unprotected sex, but is more effective the sooner you take it.

If you are contemplating having sexual intercourse, it is a good time to think about the consequences-both to yourself and your partner. An incurable sexually transmitted disease and/or an unwanted pregnancy are just the obvious.

If you want more information or help, talk to someone who cares about you. Ask your parents, an older brother or sister or an adult you feel will listen and give you good advice.

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Driving

Teenagers are always excited about learning to drive!

Teenagers are always excited about learning to drive. Driving is great because of the freedom it brings but it is a huge responsibility. You are responsible for your own safety, the safety of your passengers and the safety of others on the road.

Statistics

  • The leading cause of death for people under 27 years of age is motor vehicle accidents.
  • Drivers under the age of 25 had the highest rate of involvement in fatal crashes. The chances for death or serious injury double every 10 miles per hour over 50 that you are traveling.
  • Male drivers between 15 and 20 year of age were in involved in 40% of all fatal crashes caused by speeding.
  • Over 50% of fatal crashes for teens involve alcohol
  • Teens have a greater than 50% chance of being involved in an accident if they have a passenger in the car with them.

The statistics are frightening for both you and your parents. We encourage you to take driving seriously and to follow these tips:.

  • Always, always wear your seat belts and do not transport anyone who refuses to wear a seat belt. Almost two-thirds of all passengers killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts.
  • Drive within the speed limit.
  • Keep windows and windshield clear. Make sure you haven't over packed the car so you can see out in all directions.
  • Keep the radio at a low volume or go without it until you are comfortable driving. The radio can break your concentration and prevent you from hearing a siren or horn that could be warning you of possible trouble.
  • Never, ever drink and drive. Never ride with a driver, even an adult, who has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • When you are driving, don't do anything else. Don't talk on the phone, don't eat, and don't get ready for school.
  • If you become sleepy when driving, pull over to a safe area and rest.
  • Require your passengers to wear seat belts, to keep hands and legs inside the car, and to help you provide a safe environment for them. As the driver, you are responsible.
  • Practice with an adult as much as possible. Attend driver's education classes.
  • Become familiar with and follow all traffic rules. "I didn't know", isn't an acceptable excuse

Major factors contributing to accidents are speed, alcohol and drugs, ignoring the right of way, tailgating, improper passing, driving to the left of center, fatigue and general recklessness.

You can't always control the situations you are in, so if you find yourself somewhere where there is drinking, work out an arrangement with your parents that will make sure you can get home safely. You can make sure you always have taxi fare or call your parent for a ride with no questions until morning. You have a great opportunity in this situation to demonstrate to your parents that your behavior showed maturity and good judgement. This can go a long way in letting your parents know you can be trusted and are able to accept added responsibility and freedom. Learn safe driving habits from the beginning for a lifetime of safe driving.

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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are at epidemic levels.......

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are at epidemic levels. You can contract herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and AIDS by having vaginal, oral or anal sex. Either partner can infect the other person.

Often, symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases include abnormal genital discharge, genital itching, warts or other sores, burning during urination, lower abdominal pain, and pain or swelling of the testicles.

It is possible to have a sexually transmitted disease and to have no symptoms at all. Some of these diseases are incurable. They may cause pain, sterility or sometimes even death.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases:

Disease: Chlamydia

  • Type: Bacterial
  • Symptoms: Often none, Burning on Urination, Genital Discharge, Abdominal pain Testicular Swelling, Can cause sterility.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics
  • Prevention: Abstaining from sex

Disease: Gonorrhea

  • Type: Bacterial
  • Symptoms: Genital discharge of burning on urination with 2 - 10 days of exposure, Sometimes no symptoms, can cause pelvic inflamation, infertility and sterility, can infect joints, heart and brain.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics
  • Prevention: Abstaining from sex, Condoms decrease risk

Disease: Syphilis

  • Type: Bacterial
  • Symptoms: Sores on genitals or on body. Later stage see rash, fever, sore throat, hair loss, swollen glands. Can cause serious damage to body systems and death. Can cause sterility.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics Treatment cannot correct damage done.
  • Prevention: Abstaining from sex Avoid all contact with sores

Disease: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

  • Type: Viral
  • Symptoms: Cauliflower like warts on genitals, anus or throat.
  • Treatment: No cure Abstaining from sex. Condoms decrease risk.

Disease: Genital Herpes

  • Type: Viral
  • Symptoms: Itching and burning. Pain in legs, buttocks or genitals. Vaginal discharge. Genital or other blisters that reoccur after healing
  • Treatment: No cure.
  • Prevention: Abstaining from sex. Avoid all contact with sores.

Disease: Hepatitis B

  • Type: Viral Often
  • Symptoms: no symptoms. May have vomitting, diarrhea, fever, aching and fatigue.
  • Treatment: No cure. Can clear up or may become chronic.
  • Prevention: Vaccine is available Avoid any exchange of blood or body fluids through sex or needles

Disease: HIV/AIDS

  • Type: Viral
  • Symptoms: No early symptoms, or flu like symptoms. Weight loss, fatigue, enlarged nodes. Increased suscepitibility to infections.
  • Treatment: No cure. Often Antiviral drugs can prolong life
  • Prevention: Avoid any exchange of blood or body fluids through sex or needles. Condoms can decrease risk

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Sports

Teenagers and sports......

Sports, both team and individual, are fun, physically good for you and help many teens feel better about their bodies by helping to develop control over balance and coordination. As with adults, adolescents training for a sport or just exercising regularly should focus on conditioning and building endurance.

Training should not be something that starts at the beginning of a season and then stops when the sport is over. It is best to focus on maintaining a level of fitness that keeps your conditioned all year.

An overall fitness program for adolescents should include strength training, aerobic conditioning, flexibility, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. Exercise can influence the growth of connective tissue but there is no medical evidence that athletic activity has any influence on growth.

Strength training by using weights is not harmful to adolescents. The emphasis should be on repetitive motion with weights at a level appropriate to the size and strength of the athlete. As a rule of thumb, the athlete should be able to do at least two sets of 10-15 repetitions of a given weight. This minimizes risk of injury and maximizes strength and endurance.

The use of stimulants, illegal drugs or even drugs sold over the counter (like cold remedies, diet aids and caffeine), for athletic performance enhancement, is dangerous to all athletes.

These substances are banned by professional athletic groups for good reason. The temporary enhancement of performance with any of the above substances is offset by the potential negative effects to the health of the athlete.

Performance enhancing drugs can have dangerous side effects, particularly to your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems, not to mention the serious potential for addiction to many of these substances.

Sports Safety Tips

  • Use proper skills and techniques for the sport
  • Enforce safety rules
  • Match teams and players by weight and physical maturation, not by age or grade
  • Condition year round •Always warm up and cool down
  • Wear shoes that fit properly, are not overworn, and absorb ground impact
  • Athletes with a fever should not play
  • Athletes with injuries should work on conditioning and treatment of the injury-toughing it out by playing a sport with an injury can cause damage that could be permanent
  • Always make sure you are well hydrated before, during, and after playing your sport. Water is best. (8 oz. per 30 minutes of vigorous exercise)
  • Never use any performance enhancing drugs
  • Remember that most minor sports injuries are treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation of the extremity to decrease swelling

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Depression

Everybody feels sad sometimes.

Everybody feels sad sometimes. This is normal for all of us. Being a teenager can be full of conflicts as you are learning to balance the demands of competition, grades, friendships, complicated family relationships, discrimination and other problems. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and to need some time to figure these things out for yourself.

Depression, not just having a depressed mood, is an illness. It is characterized by continuing feelings of being hopeless, or helpless to make things better in your life. Someone who is truly depressed may feel worthless. They may experience a lot of physical symptoms like stomachaches, headaches or headaches that don't seem to have a medical cause.

They may feel restless and experience difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and even think about suicide. Depression has been linked to poor academic performance, truancy, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, and other self destructive behaviors.

If you have the following symptoms, please call our office and we will help you get back on track.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • You are sleeping a lot or are unable to sleep
  • You have gained or lost a large amount of weight
  • You have no interest in your friends or the things you used to like to do
  • You cry all the time
  • You are not able to control your anger
  • You have seen a change in your grades

You may not always recognize these signs in yourself, but others may. If you feel you are being pushed with questions, from your parents or friends, it may be because they recognize a change in you and are trying to find a way to help.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

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Eating Disorders

Teenagers are at risk for eating disorders.

Teenagers are at risk for eating disorders. Ninety percent of people who struggle with eating disorders are young women. The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia.

Anorexia is characterized by self starvation or refusal to eat. Weight is not maintained at a level that is healthy for your age, size, height or activity level. People with anorexia have an intense fear of being fat in spite of excessive weight loss.

Bulimia involves excessive eating (binge eating) followed by purging (making yourself vomit, excessive use of laxatives, or excessive over-exercising).

Eating disorders are complex physical and emotional conditions. Eating disorders carry serious, sometimes long term health risks. Some of these are dry skin, thinning hair, bruising, rashes, growth of fine hair over the body, increased sensitivity to cold temperature, and dental problems. In extreme cases, eating disorders can be extremely serious medical situations and can even lead to death.

Some common symptoms of eating disorders are self restriction of food to less than two meals per day and episodes of binge eating, fasting, vomiting, laxative use or excessive exercise.

Other symptoms are lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting, loss of menstrual periods, obsessive thinking about your weight, inability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping and depression or mood swings.

Eating disorders require serious professional help but they can be overcome. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please talk to an adult and seek help right away.

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Peer Pressure

Peer groups are a good way to learn.....

Peer groups are a good way to learn how to get along with others, how to interact with the opposite sex, and how to help you find your own identity by being exposed to many kinds of personalities. Friends help you develop your interests and give you real life examples of how others cope with difficult situations.

Choose your own friends. You will have more fun and be comfortable with friends who have similar values. Find friends who share your values. Saying"no" to things that you aren't ready for, or are uncomfortable with, doesn't have to isolate you. It might lead you to new and better friends.

By definition, a "peer" is one who is similar and equal to you. Peer groups only become harmful if you don't feel you can be yourself in the group, and you feel pressured to do things you know are wrong or you feel uncomfortable with.

Peer pressure is often a factor behind behaviors that are harmful to your health such as alcohol or drug use, sexual activity, or tobacco use. These are choices that can have permanent consequences-Drug or alcohol use can lead to the loss of your drivers license or an arrest record that can follow you for life.

Bad choices now can hurt your chances for success later in life. Remove yourself from situations where you are uncomfortable. Always leave home knowing who to call to pick you up in an emergency. Remember that decisions you make now can have permanent consequences and you should not do anything that closes a door to your future.

Sometimes it is best to anticipate situations you may find yourself in-in other words, think ahead.

Practice saying phrases like:

  • No thanks.
  • That's not too cool.
  • That's not for me.
  • I've got better things to do.

This is a time when you need to learn to take control, not be controlled. The more you practice this the better you will be at it. You may be surprised how many others will decide to follow your lead. This is peer pressure at its best!

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Sex

Don't think that most teenagers are having sex.

Don't think that most teenagers are having sex. They aren't. Sexual feelings can be strong but you need to think before you act-think about your future and think about the consequences.

Over one million teens become pregnant each year. Young girls have more medical problems during pregnancy. Babies of teenage mothers are more likely to have serious health problems.

Don't believe it! - Myths about Pregnancy

  • You can't get pregnant standing up - False
  • You can't get pregnant when you are having your period -False
  • You can't get pregnant if the boy withdraws before ejaculation - False
  • You can't get pregnant the first time you have sex - False
  • You can't get pregnant if you are using birth control- False

It is normal to have sexual feelings as a teenager; however, the consequences of premature sexual activity for teens outweigh any positives.

Make a decision not to be sexually active to protect your social and emotional health, as well as your personal goals. Pressure to have sex comes from advertising, friends, movies, television, songs, and books. But having sex doesn't make you more mature, in fact, whether you are a boy or girl, it may cause problems you don't know how to handle.

Sex should not be used to prove you love someone. It doesn't have to be hard to say "no". You can still remain friends.

You might say "I like you, but I'm not ready to have sex", or "I want to wait until I am older to have sex", or " I don't want to have sex. I don't have to have a reason, it is just my decision."

A checklist of things you should consider before having sex:

  • Is having sex in agreement with my own moral values?
  • What would my parents say? What would my friends say?
  • If I have a child, am I able to provide for its emotional and financial support?
  • If the relationship with this person ends, will I be glad I had sex with this person?
  • Am I very sure no one is pushing me to do this? Am I sure I am not doing it because I think others are?
  • Can I be sure my partner is not infected with a sexually transmitted disease?
  • Can I handle the guilt and conflict that would arise if I were to become pregnant?

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Safety

#1 Teen Myth Regarding Safety: It won't happen to me!

Issues of personal safety are different for teens. Remember when you yelled at your mom and dad to put on their seatbelts when you were 5, but now, at 15, you "forget"?

Seatbelts continue to be important and should be worn every time you get into a car, but now you are also faced with recognizing the importance of a driver who is not impaired by drugs or alcohol.

If you or your friends are riding with a teenage driver, do your part to be a good passenger who doesn't distract the driver. Never ride with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs.

As sports become more competitive your personal safety becomes more important. Make sure you wear the proper athletic equipment for your sport and that it fits you appropriately. Always wear protective gear and follow the rules of play to keep your sport safe.

While this may be obvious for things like football, make sure you follow safety rules in all situations. Remember bicycle helmet use is not just a good idea, in many places it is the law.

Avoid behaviors that are harmful to your health such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use. The best thing is to stay away or remove yourself from situations where this is happening. As a general rule, if you are someplace where something is happening that you are uncomfortable with, it is okay to say, "this is not for me", and leave.

As you are in more situations without a parent or adult right there with you, this is the time to become more attentive to the external world. Think about your personal safety by avoiding walking or riding your bike alone at night or in sparsely populated areas.

Think about parking in well lit areas of parking lots or garages. Carry a whistle and pocket size flashlight on your keychain. Think ahead about your game plan on how to get help if you have car trouble or are stranded somewhere.

Piercing and tattoos that seem like a good idea at the time can create more trouble for you later. In addition to having something on your body that you may decide you don't really want but is permanent or at the least, very difficult to get rid of, both piercing and tattoos carry risk of diseases like Hepatitis, serious infection, and permanent scarring.

Teen Safety Facts

  • Accidents are the #1 killer of teens in general.
  • Automobile accidents are the #1 cause of teen deaths.
  • Teenagers are the most likely age group to cause an automobile accident.
  • Trauma of all cause is the #1 reason teens are treated in Emergency Departments.
  • Unwanted pregnancy is common among teens

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Smoking

We understand that preaching at you not to smoke won't stop you.....

We understand that preaching at you not to smoke won't stop you, but if you know the facts, we believe you will better understand the reasons to choose not to smoke.

Athletes don't smoke because smoking reduces your performance by reducing the amount of oxygen the bloodstream can deliver to your body. The nicotine in cigarettes cause the heart to beat faster and less effectively. Coughing is caused by the chemical in cigarette smoke and is your body's way of telling you that you have dirt in your lungs.

  • Smokers get cancer.
  • Smoking doubles the chance of heart disease.
  • Smoking causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Chewing tobacco and snuff (smokeless tobacco) are also dangerous to your health. They can cause cancer, loss of your sense of taste and smell, and loss of teeth.

Smoking is addictive within a very short time and quitting can take a long time. It is an expensive habit. Smoking harms nonsmokers as well as smokers. Passive or second hand smoke does effect your health.

If you don't smoke when you are a teenager, you are not likely to as an adult. It is unattractive to others and over 70% of teenagers report they would prefer to date someone who doesn't smoke. Why smell like a dirty ashtray?

We encourage you-just don't start.

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The Care of Your Parents

You are entering a new time in your life.....

You are entering a new time in your life filled with physical, social and emotional changes. This is a time when you will want to be treated as an adult and to be given more freedom.

Your parents have a real challenge-it is their job to keep you safe and to determine when you are responsible enough to make good decisions about the freedom you are given. Your parents have been adolescents themselves, but learning to be your parent as you go through adolescence is a new experience for them.

It is something that both of you are dealing with and your relationship with them will change, but it doesn't have to be bad (at least not all the time!).

Adults have bad days, they have times when they want to be alone, and they have times when they need to think about things before they can talk about them. You are developing in just this way, but for your parents it may seem like a huge change from the way you behaved as a child.

It may be helpful to remember that your parents nurtured and guided you through childhood but now the problems are more complicated and there are bound to be some conflicts.

Some teenagers feel comfortable talking to their parents about anything. If you don't, that doesn't mean you have a bad relationship with your parents. Many times, both teenagers and their parents are uncomfortable talking about things like sex, drug use, or problems at school.

What is important is that you get accurate information about these serious topics. Talk to your parents if you can or at least be willing to listen if your parents bring up topics that make you feel uncomfortable. If you can't talk to your parents talk to your doctor or another adult.

As you are learning about growing up, you need to know that teenagers, as part of your normal development, do not always think about the negative long term consequences of behavior such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug use, or physical harm caused by things like smoking.

It is the job of your parents or other adults to help to think beyond what you want to do right now. This is just part of learning responsibility.

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A Message to Teens and Parents:

Summary of the Adolescent Journey:

It is important for parents to understand that the "kids" are growing up in a world more complicated than twenty years ago. But it is important that the teen understand that many of the basic arguments they have with their parents are the same twenty years later.

Adolescents deserve a parents respect, time and attention. They need to be allowed some freedom in order to learn to make their own decisions. They also need to know that with each decision they make, there will be a consequence, good or bad, based on that decision.

Demonstrating consistently good judgment should be rewarded with more freedom. Poor decision making should logically carry consequences of less freedom, more limits.

Parents and teens should be encouraged to sit down ahead of time and outline what they see as reasonable rules and the consequences for breaking those rules. This helps to eliminate confusion. "I didn't know", is not an acceptable excuse. It is not an excuse for adults and the goal is for teens to become respectable adults.

Advice for Teens:

  • Be willing to accept some rules. Rules and laws will govern you for the rest of your life.
  • Challenge yourself to always do what is right.
  • If you demonstrate to your parents that you are following the rules, use this to bargain for more freedom.
  • Remember that with added freedom comes added responsibility. Making the transition from kid to adult means accepting responsibility for all of your behaviors. This is HUGE!

Advice for Parents:

  • Be willing to make rules that are clear and be willing to enforce them.
  • Be willing to negotiate increasing freedom as your teen demonstrates consistently responsible behavior.
  • Don't set higher standards of conduct for your teen than you do for yourself-example really is the best teacher.
  • Don't try to be a friend to your teen-this isn't what they want or need.
  • Continually reinforce, during quiet times, that your motives are not driven by a desire to instruct or control, but rather by concern and love.
  • Be able to gradually accept that as parents we can claim credit and responsibility for less and less of our teen's behavior as they grow into adulthood.

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Diet and Exercise

The rate of growth during adolescence is one of the most dramatic.....

The rate of growth during adolescence is one of the most dramatic changes your body will go through and your body needs increased energy. You are on your own more and school and other activities make it harder for you to eat regularly or well. Good nutrition is essential during this time.

Try to enlist the help of your entire family with these good habits:

  • Eat breakfast. Have regular eating habits as much as possible.
  • Don't skip meals.
  • Limit fat intake by keeping the household supply of junk food to a minimum.
  • Limit fast food meals. It isn't realistic to think you can eliminate junk food entirely, but the majority of fat intake should come from healthier foods like cheese or yogurt, not from chips, candy or cookies.
  • Balance your food choices. Remember those food groups you learned in grade school. Eat from all of them.
  • Keep low fat, healthy foods on hand for snacking such as fruit, raw vegetables, whole grain crackers and yogurt. Junk food is okay sometimes, but try to snack smart.
  • Drink milk, juice and water over soda. Drink water over sports drinks.
  • •Eat when you are hungry, not because you are bored.
  • Be aware of the media pressures that stress being thin. Teens often want to experiment with dieting. Many diets can be hazardous to the health of teenagers. Instead of supporting fad diets, encourage increased exercise as a method of burning calories. Make physical activity fun by working out or exercising with a group of friends or in organized activities at school. Work up a sweat with 20 minutes of vigorous exercise each day.

During adolescence you need zinc for the development of your reproductive organs, for normal growth and for healthy skin. Animal protein (meat, milk, eggs), beans, wheat germ and nuts are all good sources of zinc.

Iron in your diet is necessary for muscle development and for girls to replace what is lost through menstruation. Iron can also be lost through sweating with vigorous exercise. Red meat, green vegetables, dried fruit, peanut butter, and iron fortified cereals are all good sources of iron. Foods containing vitamin C (citrus fruits, green vegetables) are helpful to improve your body's absorption of iron.

Calcium is necessary for bone growth. The bone development during adolescence will be important to you throughout your life. Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, non-fat or low fat frozen yogurt or ice cream) are the best sources of dietary calcium.

A balanced diet can provide these minerals as well as the vitamins needed for your teenage body tissues to grow and for proper functioning of your central nervous system.

Always choose non-fat or low fat options. For example, choose non-fat or 1% milk instead of 2% or whole. Choose lean meat over fatty meat. Avoid fried foods. Eat breads and cereals that are not processed with a lot of fat.

Avoid fad diets. Instead choose a variety of foods from the major food groups and try to keep your fat intake low.

Organized sports and team sports are not for everyone, but everyone should incorporate activity into their daily routine. So, for some, it may be basketball or soccer, and for others it may be golf, biking, or hiking.

Be willing to challenge your parents if proper eating habits and activity are not a priority in their eyes for you. Why not for them, as well?!

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