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The ages from 15 to 18 are an exciting time of life. But these years can
be challenging for teens and their parents. Emotions can change quickly as
teens learn to deal with school, their friends, and adult expectations. Teen
self-esteem is affected by success in school, sports, and friendships. Teens
tend to compare themselves with others, and they might form false ideas about
their body image. The influence of TV, magazines, and the Internet can add to a
teen's poor body image.
For parents, the teen years are a time to
get to know their teenager. While teens are maturing, they still need a
parent's love and guidance. Most do just fine as they face the challenges of
being a teen. But it is still important for teens to have good support from
their parents so that they can get through these years with as few problems as
There are four basic areas of teenage
should see his or her doctor for a routine checkup each year. The doctor will ask
your teen questions about his or her life and activities. This helps the doctor
check on your teen's mental and physical health. It's a good idea to give your
teen some time alone with the doctor during these visits to talk in private.
Your teen will also get the shots (immunizations) that are needed at each
Teens should also see the dentist each year.
Call your doctor
if you have questions or concerns about your teen's physical or emotional
health, such as:
Also call your doctor if you notice changes in your teen's
friendships or relationships or if you need help talking with your teen.
Even though teens don't always welcome your help, they still need it.
Your being available and involved in your teen's life can help your teen avoid
risky behavior. It also helps your teen grow and develop into a healthy adult.
Here are some things you can do:
Teens really want to know that they can talk honestly and
openly with you about their feelings and actions. It is very important for
teens to know that you love them no matter what.
Learning about teen growth and development:
Seeing a doctor:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Teens grow and develop at different
rates. But general teen growth and development patterns can be grouped into
four main categories.
Growth and development does not always occur evenly among
different categories. For example, your teen may have a tremendous growth spurt
and look almost like an adult but may seem socially and emotionally young for
his or her age. Eventually, most teens mature in all areas of growth and
development, especially if given the right tools and parental guidance.
The word "teenager" to many people
brings up an image of a wild and reckless young person whose main purpose in
life is to rebel against his or her parents. Most teenagers do not fit this
description. Of course, there are times when any teenager may be hard to deal
with. But many teenagers are trying their best to please parents while they
work toward some level of independence.
Parents of teenagers
ages 15 to 18 are often most concerned about whether their teens will be
able to make good decisions. Parents know that the choices children make during
the teen years can have an impact on much of their adult lives. It is normal to worry. But the chances are that he or
she is going to be okay. Although your child may sometimes have lapses in judgment, know that you do have an effect on what your child decides, even if it doesn't always seem that way.
Know that you are not alone in these
types of concerns. For example, many parents worry about whether their teenager
understand the issues your teen faces. Although you
may remember some struggles from your own teen years, the issues your teen
faces are likely quite different. Stay involved in your teen's life, such as by
going to school events and encouraging your teen to bring friends to your house
while you are home. You can better see the world from his or her perspective
when you are familiar with it. Also, learn to recognize your teen's
stress triggers and offer guidance on how to manage
the anxiety they may cause. But be careful not to get too caught up in your
teen's world. If you try to take too much control, it will likely only make
things harder for him or her.
help your teen between the ages of 15 and 18 years by using
basic parenting strategies. These include offering open, positive
communication while providing clear and fair rules and consistent guidance.
Support your teen in developing healthy habits and attitudes, help him or her
make wise choices, and offer guidance in how to balance responsibilities.
The following are examples of ways to promote healthy growth and
development in specific areas. But remember that many growth and development
issues overlap. For example, having a healthy body image is important for
physical development and emotional development. Use these ideas as a starting
point to help your teen make good choices that will help him or her grow into a
healthy and happy adult.
Promote your teen's
physical development by doing the following:
Promote your teen's healthy
emotional and social development by doing the
Promote your teen's
mental (cognitive) development by doing the
Promote your teen's
sensory and motor development by doing the
Talk to your teen's doctor if you are concerned about your teen's health or other issues. For example, you may have concerns about your teen:
Call the doctor or a mental health professional if your teen
develops behavioral problems or signs of mental health problems. These may
For more information, see the topics
Depression in Children and Teens,
Binge Eating Disorder, Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections, and/or
Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
It's important for your teen to continue to have routine checkups. These checkups allow the doctor to detect problems and to make
sure your teen is growing and developing as expected. The doctor will do a
physical exam and ask questions about your teen's
social, academic, relationship, and mental health status. Your teen's
immunization record will be reviewed, and needed immunizations should be given
at this time. For more information on immunizations, see:
Teens also need to have regular
dental checkups and need to be encouraged to brush and floss regularly. For
more information about dental checkups, see the topic
Basic Dental Care.
Starting in the teen years, most doctors like to spend some time alone with
your child during the visit. Although many state laws are vague about teens'
rights to medical confidentiality, most doctors will clarify expectations.
Ideally, you will all agree that anything your teen discusses privately with
the doctor will remain confidential, with few exceptions. This gives your teen
an opportunity talk to the doctor about any issue he or she may not feel
comfortable sharing with you.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for
women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient
education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient
education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive
health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.
This Web site has information about things you can do to
help yourself and your family members be healthy. Topics address child
development, physical activity, healthy eating, reproductive health, mental
health, and more.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
This Web site provides a variety of resources about
protecting yourself and your family from Internet crimes. There is information
about Internet safety for children, identity theft, general Internet safety,
and Internet privacy.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of American provides
comprehensive reproductive health care and consumer information about family
planning, sexual health, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The Teen Talk Web site (www.plannedparenthood.org/teen-talk) has information for teens about dating, teen pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, how teens can protect themselves against STDs, and more.
This teen Web site has information and tools to help you make environmentally sound choices about the products and natural resources you use, the waste you create, and the environment in which you live.
Other Works Consulted
Cromer B, et al. (2011). Adolescent development. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 649–659. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Dweck CS, Master A (2009). Self-concept. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 427–435. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Friedman RA (2006). The changing face of teenage drug abuse—The trend toward prescription drugs. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(14): 1448–1450.
Garrison W, Felice ME (2009). Adolescence. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 62–73. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Kuperminc GP, et al. (2001). Volunteering and community service in adolescence. Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, 12(3): 445–457.
Maehr J, Felice ME (2006). Fifteen to seventeen years: Mid-adolescence—Redefining self. In SD Dixon, MT Stein, eds., Encounters With Children, 4th ed., pp. 565–598. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
Meininger E, Remafedi G (2008). Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adolescents. In LS Neinstein et al., eds., Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, 5th ed., pp. 554–564. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Sass AE, Kaplan DW (2011). Adolescence. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 104–144. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Strasburger VC (2009). Media. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 192–200. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Telingator CJ, Daniolos PT (2007). Sexual minority youth. In A Martin, FR Volkmar, eds., Lewis's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, 4th ed., pp. 79–86. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
April 6, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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