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Health tips for your teenager

5 minute read
Mother teaching her son to cook over the stove

It’s one of the biggest challenges you’ll likely face as parents – the teen years.

It’s an intense period of physical, emotional and intellectual growth that can challenge even the strongest parent-child bonds. While you no longer have to spoon-feed them, bathe them or change their nappies, your teen will likely need a little guidance when it comes to their overall wellbeing.

There’s no better time than now to lay the foundations of good health for the rest of their life, so here are seven ways to set your child up for a happy and healthy future. Trust us; they might grumble now, but they’ll thank you later.

1. Healthy eating

Is your teen able to inhale half a loaf of bread without batting an eyelid? You can thank growth spurts for that. Helping them make healthy eating choices will not only satisfy their hunger, but also ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need.

Despite what they might think, chicken nuggets, potato gems and sugary drinks won’t fill them up. Instead, keep your fridge and pantry stocked with foods that contain protein and are high in fibre, such as fruits and veggies, whole grain bread or pasta and dairy products like yoghurt.

2. Regular exercise

Adolescence can be a time when many teens, especially girls, stop participating in sports. But physical activity is a great way to reduce stress, stay social and maintain fitness. If your child isn’t enjoying sport, talk to them about trying something new rather than quitting altogether.

As a guide, teens should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but that exercise doesn’t have to be in one hit. Walking the dog, riding a bike to school or going for a swim can all count towards that daily goal.

A team of four girls huddling together on a field.

3. A good night’s sleep

You may have noticed that your teenager’s sleep patterns have changed and it’s virtually impossible to get them up in the morning. For the most part, this isn’t laziness; teen sleep cycles often make them want to stay up later at night and sleep in. Unfortunately, this isn’t always compatible with life’s other commitments.

To help them get enough sleep, which is really important for their mental and physical health, make sure that screen time and caffeine aren’t interfering. Discourage your teen from using devices in their bedroom (yep, we’re talking TVs, phones, game consoles and computers) and try to get them to turn off all screens at least half an hour before bedtime.

To ensure they get a good night’s sleep – and to try to prevent them from checking social media throughout the night – try turning off the wifi in the house after 10pm. If there’s anything teens hate more than Brussels Sprouts, it’s using their mobile data at home.

4. Social and emotional wellbeing

Everyone has good days and bad days, including your teen. Try to help them put the bad days into perspective and encourage resilience. In saying that, if they have persistent feelings of isolation, sadness or distress, these signs shouldn’t be ignored. Help is available – good places to start include the school counsellor, your GP, online mental health support services or a helpline. For more information and support, check out Headspace or our article on 6 ways to get help for mental health – without having to pay a thing!

5. Avoid alcohol and drugs

Let’s be clear – there’s no safe level of drinking for teenagers. When talking to your teen about alcohol and drugs, emphasise the message that binge drinking (more than four drinks in one session) is dangerous and that illicit drugs are not safe.

6. Stay sun safe

According to the Cancer Council, approximately two in three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70. Chances are, you’ve instilled the importance of sun safety from an early age, but your teen may need some encouragement to keep up the good work.

7. Vaccinate

This one is pretty simple – to give your child the best chance of avoiding the flu, make sure they get an annual flu shot. For more information, check out our article on everything you need to know about this year's flu vaccine.

In addition, vaccination against high-risk strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – the virus responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer – is recommended for all teenagers. Boys and girls are offered a HPV vaccination as well as a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) booster as part of a school-based vaccination program, usually in year 7 or 8.

Vaccination against different strains of the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease is also recommended. The vaccines recommended for teenagers include:

  • Meningococcal ACWY vaccine, given as part of a school-based vaccination program – usually in year 10.
  • Meningococcal B vaccination is also strongly recommended for adolescents aged 15-19 years. It is available on private prescription and as part of school vaccination programs in some states.

Is it time for a health cover check-up?

At nib, we’re committed to keeping you and your loved ones at your healthiest, which is why we’ve put together a list of health checks that are important for teenagers.

Everyone’s health cover needs are different. To help you understand what level of cover is best suited to your family, contact our cover experts today.

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