Caring for Your 15- to 18-Year-Old

15-18 Years

Caring for Your 15- to 18-Year-Old

Development

  • Teens are encouraged to contribute around the house. Assign reasonable chores and offer praise when the job is done well. This teaches them to help others, and instills a sense of self-sufficiency and satisfaction.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about his or her day and to tell you if someone is hurting or bullying him or her at school.
  • Limit screen time to two hours or less each day. Children this age should not have a TV or computer in the bedroom. Establish firm rules about cell phone, texting, Internet and social media use.
  • Set aside time to interact with your child daily.
  • Regular physical activity is fun and healthy. The recommendation is one hour of physical exercise daily.

Nutrition

  • Eat meals together as a family, whenever possible.
  • Always ensure that your child eats breakfast.
  • Limit candy, junk food, fast food and other fatty foods. Avoid soda, tea, coffee, sports drinks, juice and flavored drinks.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks. Be sure your child is drinking low-fat milk or eating dairy products to maintain good growth, and healthy bones and teeth. Three servings of dairy and five servings of fruits/vegetables are encouraged each day.
  • Discuss the use of nutrition sports supplements with your child’s doctor.
  • Be a role model for your child by making healthy choices.

Mental Health

  • Show your child how to manage pressure and peacefully settle disputes. Encourage open discussion and refrain from being judgmental.
  • Help your child stay organized with school assignments and take responsibility for schoolwork.
  • Help your child discover an enjoyable activity outside of school. This can be sports, art, music, volunteer work – anything that helps your early adolescent feel accomplished and proud.

Routines and Discipline

  • Never slap or hit your child, as it will teach him or her to hit others.
  • Hug and praise your child for behaving well, being polite and trying hard in school.
  • Set reasonable and consistent limits and deliver discipline in a loving, but firm, manner.
  • Be a role model for your teenager. Demonstrate how to use appropriate words when angry, advocate for him or her in school and apologize if you make a mistake.
  • Support your teen in problem-solving and decision- making. Encourage your child to think about the future and begin to plan for it.
  • If you have concerns about your teenager’s mood, motivation or safety, talk with him or her. Your child’s doctor can help with this conversation.

Oral Health

  • Teens should brush their teeth twice per day, using fluoride toothpaste. Daily flossing is encouraged.
  • Be sure your teen sees a dentist every six months for routine checkups.
  • If possible, teens should wear a mouth guard during contact sports.

Safety

  • Use sunscreen when spending time outdoors.
  • A helmet should be worn when riding a bike, skiing, sledding, ice skating, horseback riding, skateboarding and in-line skating. Riding an ATV is discouraged.
  • Know your child’s friends and their families. Know where your child is after school, and what he or she is doing.
  • Teach your child to be safe with other adults. Encourage your child to tell you when a person or situation makes him or her feel unsafe.
  • Help your teenager make smart and safe decisions about sexual activity. Be sure your child knows that healthy relationships are built on respect and that saying “no” is okay.
  • Teach your child about the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and drug use. Your child’s doctor can help you with this conversation, but it is important for your child to know he or she can come to you with any questions.
  • If you have a gun in your home, be sure the ammunition is kept separately from the weapon and that these are both kept safely locked away.
  • Set expectations for safe driving, including:
    • Proper use of seatbelts
    • Avoidance of substances and situations that alter reaction time and judgment (alcohol, drugs, fatigue)
    • Minimizing distractions (cell phones, overcrowding of car)
    • Respecting fellow drivers
    • Assessing driving conditions and other safe driving practices

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.

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