Having open, honest dialogue with your children about their health sets them up for a successful future. You can help ensure they get information from a trusted resource (you) and that they have a head start on taking care of their bodies. While you should address any questions your child has, don’t forget to also discuss other important aspects of their health that they may be unaware of.
Health Topics to Cover
These days, children are exposed to information about sex earlier than ever before. Don’t wait for your child to mischaracterize sex from the internet, TV, movies or friends. As a parent, you can be a reliable source of information about sexuality and your child’s changing body.
By age 8, talk with your child about changes that come with puberty, including periods, acne, mood changes, facial hair and voice deepening. This is because some girls can start their period as soon as age 8.
Have an age-appropriate conversation with your adolescent about how to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. They should understand it spreads through unprotected sex, unclean needles, including those used for tattoos or for injecting illicit drugs, as well as sharing objects that may have blood on them from a person who is HIV-positive.
Mental health conditions sometimes go overlooked. Your child’s mental well-being is equally as important as their physical health. Encouraging dialogue with your child about their mood and feelings can help them establish trust in you. Stay patient and supportive as your child navigates mood changes during puberty. Pay close attention to sadness or irritability that lasts for a long time and interferes with activities. It may be a sign your child is struggling with depression.
Nutrition and Exercise
Committing to healthy eating habits and regular exercise starts young. Remind your adolescent to focus on filling their plate with nutritious foods, not on how much she weighs. Teach your child how moving their body keeps them strong and healthy. Model good nutrition and an active lifestyle in your home.
You’ve Got This
As a parent, you may feel uncomfortable about specific health questions or perhaps feel inadequate to talk about certain health topics. Remember, you don’t have to be a health expert. You just need to share. Your child will appreciate and value the education you gave them at a young age as they grow into a healthy, happy adult.