Welcome to the last major hurdle of childhood: the infamous teenage years. Naturally, many parents have concerns about how to guide teens through this pivotal transition period. The following are some common questions we at Children's Hospital Colorado hear.
How do we talk about sex, drugs and safety?
The key to any tough talk is to remember that you are training them to act like mature adults — to think about and own the consequences of their actions — and training yourself to treat them like an adult.
Tips for having “the talk”
- Talk early and often – you can have a strong influence on your soon-to-be independent teenager if you build a relationship with open communication.
- Model healthy behaviors – demonstrate coping skills, responsibility and how to own up to mistakes.
- Establish an atmosphere of safety and acceptance – give them a little room to safely explore, test, and challenge attitude and values.
- Remember that if you don’t talk to them, they’ll learn from someone or something else.
- Find teachable moments in TV, news and everyday events.
Review our complete list of Tips for Parents on Talking with Teens About Sexual Health.
How do we help our teen deal with peer pressure?
Teens make dozens of choices every day, many of which are influenced by their siblings and friends. Typically, these peers play a supportive and encouraging role, helping your teen to fit in and feel confident. If the influence is negative, however, here’s how you can step in:
- Teach your teen to identify the signs and feelings that surround negative peer pressure.
- Come up with strategies to handle or get out of uncomfortable social situations.
- Let your teen know that, if they need to make up an excuse to avoid a peer’s influence, you’ll back them up or take the blame.
- Help your teen discuss his/her values outside of a peer influence, so they’re more likely to recognize pressures that go against their values or personal goals.
Is my child depressed or just a normal teenager?
Moodiness may be a normal part of teenage health, but depression isn’t. Unlike occasional bouts of melancholy or bad moods, depression lingers for weeks or months and limits a teen’s ability and desire to participate in everyday activities.
If you think your child is suffering from depression:
- Encourage physical activity.
- Offer love and support.
- Listen to learn more about their symptoms and experience.
- Call your doctor for appropriate treatment and support.
Remember, depression can affect as many as 1 in 8 teens, and can have dire consequences. Review our Signs of Difficulty to help flag changes in mood or behavior. If your teen needs help, reach out the specialists and support teams our Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department.
How can I help my teen eat healthy foods?
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are five of the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:
- Have regular family meals
- Stock up on healthy choices
- Model healthy eating yourself
- Avoid battles over food (battles can backfire)
- Keep your teen involved in meal planning and prep
Remember, since teens are both physically and financially more independent than other age groups, it’s especially important to educate them on the hazards of fast food.
Fast foods trade the vitamins and minerals teens need for calorie-dense stores of sugar, sodium and fat. This can up their blood pressure and lower their energy level. It’s also easy for teens underestimate the number of calories they’re eating.
Timeless parenting questions
Your child may be nearing adulthood, but some common health concerns are always relevant. Check out those common concerns that affect kids at every age.