The word “teenager’’ sparks a variety of emotions in the minds of most parents. It is a difficult period for parents. The transformation that they see in their kids is incredible and adaptation to these sudden changes can be quite a task. However, if the parents have the requisite knowledge, they can better cope up with this period.
Teenage period is best described as a period of transition. There are physical, emotional, mental, psychological, intellectual and social changes in the child. The pace of the changes is very rapid. Most of the times, this period is usually difficult for the child. This troublesome period can become a roller coaster ride, if not handled properly.
CHANGES OF PUBERTY
This generally occurs in the girls between the age group of 8 to 13 years and lasts a few years. There are hormones released in the body which stimulates the ovaries to secrete the female hormone oestrogen.
The girls gain height, hence usually the girls are taller in this age than the boys. The proportion of body fat may increase. They develop breasts and the growth of breasts can continue for a few years. The breast growth may be uneven with one breast being smaller than the other. Breast development is one issue which the teenagers find difficult to cope up with. It can take a little time to get adjusted to it. Emphasis should be laid on a good fitting brassiere. Both undersize and oversize can cause a complex in the girls. All efforts should be put in to develop a healthy body image in the girls. Usually prior to starting periods the girls may complain of white vaginal discharge. This can alert the parents to the fact that the girl is ready to start her menstrual cycle. The first cycle is called menarche. This should not come as a shock to the children and should be prediscussed with them. They have to be gradually told about the menstrual cycle and how it is an essential part of being feminine.
When the girls start with the cycles, the concept of menstrual hygiene should also be explained to them. They should be taught about maintaining a menstrual diary and when to expect their next cycles. A good practice is to keep a sanitary napkin in the school bags so that they are not caught unawares for it can be a highly embarrassing situation! They should be told to wash their hands before and after periods, to change menstrual pads after every 4 to 6 hours and about proper disposal of napkins.
The initial cycles can be irregular. This is usually not a matter of concern as the cycles get regularized later on. However, in some cases, the initial cycles may be heavy which may cause a lot of distress to the kids and may require medical intervention. Another very common problem, these days, is of polycystic ovaries. This is a hormonal disorder and can manifest as irregular and heavy cycles, acne, weight gain etc. This condition may require medical intervention and change in lifestyle. Very often, a regular exercise regime, avoiding junk foods and losing weight can take care of the problem.
The children struggle to come to terms with the change in their body appearance. The cute little child is transformed into a funny looking adolescent. At the same time, they become conscious of their bodies and looks. It is also the time when they start getting influenced by the media and their friends and start experimenting with their looks.
This may lead to a variety of eating disorders like dieting, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The concept of a healthy and balanced diet needs to be explained to them. It is the time when growth is at its maximum pace and the body requires its fill of nutrition. In fact, if the diet is low in calcium, the girls are prone to osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) in their later lives.
It is also the time when children develop an unhealthy lifestyle which may lead to obesity. In fact, it is very common to see adolescent obese girls. Obesity in adolescence is a setting for hypertension and diabetes in later life. The need for exercise in these children cannot be overemphasized. This can be in the form of sports, dance, swimming etc. It is a good practice to lead by example, as in if the parents maintain a healthy lifestyle, the kids imbibe it automatically.
Acne is another common problem in this age group. It is estimated that 85% of the teens develop acne. Some teens can be particularly conscious of acne. If the acne is severe, it would require medical attention. In girls, acne could indicate a deeper issue of polycystic ovarian disease.
Facial hair is another common problem which can cause loss of self-esteem. Some of this hair may be temporary and usually, no action is required till the age of 16.
Apart from physical changes, mental, emotional and intellectual changes also take place in the teens. This is the time when usually there is a “ shift away” from the parents. She tries to become more independent and more interested in friends. Her world shifts. She is more susceptible to the views of her friends and the media. This can translate into rebellious behaviour, fights at home, defiance and sometimes social withdrawl and depression. Understanding that this shift is a natural phenomenon can prevent a lot of heartbreak. A feeling of mutual understanding and trust between the parent and teen can go a long way to make life smoother and happier The usual wish of any teenager is to ‘fit in’. In this process, they become susceptible to peer pressure group. If not properly handled, they can become exposed to smoking, drinking and substance abuse.
This is d The initial cycles can be irregular. This is usually not a matter of concern as the cycles get regularized later on. However, in some cases, the initial cycles may be heavy which may cause a lot of distress to the kids and may require medical intervention. A very common problem , these days, is of polycystic ovaries. This is a hormonal disorder and can manifest as irregular and heavy cycles, acne , weight gain etc. This condition may require medical intervention and change in lifestyle. Very often, a regular exercise egime, avoiding junk foods and losing weight can take care of the problem.
angerous for the brain growth and functioning. As a parent, one should be familiar with the signs of substance abuse – slow reactions, slurred speech, poor coordination, greater financial need. Parents also need to keep an eye on the company that their kids keep.In today’s world with the burst of social media like snapchat, twitter etc it can sometimes become quite a task to keep a track of your teen’s movements.
However, even though you need to watch your teen, you should not go overboard! You should not read her e mails etc for this. The teens need their privacy and would go to any length to protect it. Instead it would be better to be friends with your teens.It would make her confide you and she would feel protected and you would feel that the situation is under control.
At this time it is also seen that the expectations of the parents, teachers etc increase. The teens are under a great pressure to perform and deliver. The general dictum is that the child should be best at everything. They may not be able to cope up with the situation and become the victims of depression and suicidal tendencies. Understanding the needs, wants, desires and limitations of your teen is very important. This can only happen if there is a good communication channel between the parents and children.
In this transition phase and with their minds and emotions in turmoil, the teens are susceptible to falling in the wrong path. Sexual exploitation is easy these days. The girls should be taught about “wrong touch’. They should also be told about eve teasing, rape etc. Pre marital sex is another area which should preferably be discussed with the teenagers and it is certainly better that they get accurate information about these, rather than relying on unreliable sources. The possibility of pregnancy has to be explained to the teenage girls.
A cervical cancer vaccine is essential in teenage girls. Cervical cancer is the commonest cancer in Indian women and there is now a vaccine available against it . A small step can go a long way to prevent a deadly disease.
- First gynaecologist visit between 11 – 13 years.
- Cervical cancer vaccination
- Healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Establish good communication channels
- Lookout for any abnormal physical signs ( like
heavy bleeding, acne etc ), mental issues like
depression, performance anxiety, social issues
like internet addiction, social withdrawl etc.