Babies bawl. Toddlers have tantrums. Kids cry over going back to school and refuse to do their homework. Every stage of your child’s life comes with its own set of challenges. But no life stage is as terrifying as the teen years, which bring about a whole new set of problems. The years between the ages of 13 and 19 may be some of the most difficult years you’ll face in your child’s life. Here are a few important problems to be on the lookout for when you have a teenager, so you can be prepared and know what to do when the time comes.
- Body Image Issues
In this world, most young people are online, and many of them edit their pictures to show the best versions of themselves. From smoothing over a fat roll to rounding out the hips or squaring the jawlines, boys and girls alike have something they want to live up to and a mold they feel they should fit.
Teenagers are the group most likely to develop eating disorders, especially young girls. Boys may be inclined to develop muscle dysmorphia, constantly striving for those washboard abs and arms as big as the Hulk’s.
Let your teenager know that it’s okay to be himself and that everyone’s body is different. Self- love and body acceptance is something that’s hard to have when all you see on social media these days are fake models and perfect faces. Try and direct your teenager toward a positive body image.
The bullying does not end when the playground thugs stealing lunch money mature or when your child gets too big to be stuffed in a locker. In this day and age, cyberbullying and emotional manipulation run rampant. Gossip and rumors are a huge thing among teens and can seriously damage your teenager’s emotional well-being.
As adults, we know that all the strife a teen may be suffering now will be a distant memory in the future. But for the teenager living in a nightmare of constant and cruel bullying, hearing things like, “Try to ignore it” or “Just blow it off” from a parent is anything but helpful.
In addition to being bullied, there can also be a huge pressure to be popular in schools and online. And some teens may turn into a bully in order to put others down and climb ahead in their social circles. Look out for signs of aggression and changes in attitude in your teenager, and talk to them about respecting others, as well as having self-respect.
If you don’t address bullying and cruelty issues, they could snowball and develop into a sticky legal issue: “In today’s “zero-tolerance” legal environment, even a first-time juvenile offender may face the prospect of incarceration,” said David Hunter, a Fort Bend juvenile lawyer.
- Risky Sexual Behavior
Underage sex is an undeniable fact in our world. and more than half of teenagers in the U.S. alone have engaged in some form of sexual activity before the age of 18. Though teen pregnancy rates have gone down in recent years, it’s still something to be wary of along with STDs.
Many parents don’t think their kids are sexually active despite the facts — and even if you’re one of these parents, you should still talk to your kids about sexual health, protection, and most important of all in this modern world: consent.
- Substance Use
The pressure is on teenagers to partake in underage drinking, and the popularity of marijuana among youth is on the rise. These substances have age limits or are illegal for good reasons, including possible health consequences.
Talk to your teenager about the facts and the dangers of substance use, both in their teen years and when they’re grown up. Ask them if people are pressuring them at school to join in, and commit to being an open and forgiving parent who they feel comfortable confessing to or confiding in.
- Mental Health Issues
Now more than ever, mental health is a growing issue among young people with depression and anxiety taking the lead over other issues. Hormonal changes, social and parental pressure and the desire to be accepted among their peers can cause mild to severe mental health issues.
Today’s teens face higher expectations in society and in school than ever before, which is not easy on anybody mentally. Watch out for behavioral changes in your teens, and make sure they know that there’s no shame in struggling with their mental health. All they have to do is ask for help.