The Institute Blog

posted by

Julie Eisen, MA, CHES

Julie Eisen is the Communications Associate for The Institute for Family Health.

Adolescents: Back to School; Back for a Health Check

October 9, 2015

cortijo with teenAs kids return to school, the Fall season is also a great time to think about their yearly check-up. This is especially true for adolescents (kids and young adults ages 10-19).

Why is adolescent health important?

When kids enter adolescence, a lot starts to change.

Physical Health

  • Kids grow a lot during adolescence. Their bodies also begin to mature as they go through puberty, and their weight might change. They start looking and sounding more like adults.
  • Talking about nutrition and physical activity may also be a key topic at this time.
  • Even though a lot of adolescents seem healthy, there could be things going on that aren’t obvious. Prevention is very important during this time. Health providers will check their bodies to make sure everything is going ok.

Mental Health

  • As kids become more independent, they have new responsibilities in their lives. They may have more schoolwork, more things to help with at home and even a job. This can be a lot to handle and may lead to stress, or even depression.
  • Sometimes adolescents may keep these feelings to themselves. A provider can offer a safe space to talk about what’s going on in their lives.

Social Health

  • Parents, family members or other trusted adults are still important in adolescents’ lives. But their relationships with friends become more influential during this time.
  • Friends can be great influences. It is also good to check in that your child is not feeling pressured to do unhealthy things, like drugs, alcohol or violent activities, like joining gangs.
  • They also may become interested in dating. Relationships can be a wonderful part of being a young adult. It’s also important to check in to make sure that their relationships are healthy. If they might be having sex, it’s good for a health provider to talk with them about being safe and using protection.

“This is a time when kids are beginning to develop,” says Julia Standefer, a nurse practitioner at the Institute for Family Health. “They have burning questions and often do want to be healthy, but they are terrified or embarrassed to ask questions to an adult in their life.”

This is where their yearly well visit comes in, she explains. “Providers can give them good health information at a time when they might feel invincible and like nothing can hurt them.”

Even though adolescents start to look like adults, they’re not. They still need your help. “The parent may need to push to get the kid to see the doctor – even if it doesn’t seem like there is anything wrong,” says Dr. Walter Woodley, the Institute’s vice president of medical services. Learning healthy habits when kids are young gets them ready to be healthy adults.

If your child does not yet have a regular health provider, call an Institute health center near you and make an appointment for your adolescent’s yearly check-up.