Whether your teenager is heading off to college or technical school, entering the work force or joining the military, graduating from high school is a big life change, often including living on their own for the first time. Helping your teen successfully navigate this transition from childhood into independent adulthood is absolutely vital, and a recent blog by Mason Gomberg, MD, a pediatrician in our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, can help your teen and you navigate this big shift.
8 things your young adult should keep in mind as he/she moves on and moves out
Your son or daughter will soon be making their own decisions about the direction their life will take, including decisions that affect their health, which is where we come in. At Westchester Health, we’ve been here before with lots and lots of patients and their parents, and we offer him/her these suggestions for staying healthy, mentally and physically in the days and years to come.
- Make sure to get enough rest (8-9 hours of sleep a night whenever possible). Too little sleep can contribute to a number of health problems, including colds, the flu, stress, depression, weight gain, weight loss, anxiety and loss of concentration (which can negatively affect schoolwork/exams or job performance).
- Eat well. Fast food or junk food may be quick and cheap when you are in a rush, but eating well is important. Try to eat fruits and vegetables every day, as well as foods high in protein and calcium. Limit junk food and foods with a lot of fat, sugar and salt, as well as sugary drinks such as soda and certain sport drinks.
- Exercise is an important part of staying healthy. Make time each day, or at least several times a week, to fit exercise into your schedule.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drug abuse is a leading cause of teen injury and/or death. It also increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that when someone abuses alcohol and drugs as a teen, they are much more likely to have future alcohol and drug problems.
- Sexual health, safe sex, birth control, gender identification, STDs and avoiding date rape. Before you start having sex, or even if you’re already sexually active, there are a lot of things you should know and precautions to take that can have a big effect on your health. One study has found that up to 10% of female students have been date raped while attending college, often in conjuncture with alcohol or drug use.
- When to leave your pediatrician and start seeing an adult doctor. Many young adults see their pediatrician until they turn 21, while others choose to switch to an adult health provider much earlier. Whichever path you choose, we’re ready at Westchester Health to offer advice and guidance and to help smooth the transition.
- Know where to go if you are having a health problem. It’s important to know what to do and where to go if you get sick or injured, as well as for health-related advice, information and counseling. Where is the nearest student health service, hospital, clinic or emergency room?
- Be familiar with your health insurance. You should carry your own i.d. card from your health plan, or know how to get your own insurance.
How you can help your teen set goals
Here are our suggestions for communicating, in a non-judgmental way, with your young person who’s about to fly the coop.
- Listen to your teen and resist the temptation to provide unsolicited advice. If he/she is struggling to make a decision, maybe tell a story from your own life about a tough choice you had to make.
- Provide respect and support while giving up some control. Trying to direct your teen’s future probably won’t benefit him/her in the long run. This is the time for teens to develop their own decision-making and problem-solving skills, attributes they will need out in the real world for the rest of their lives.
- Prepare your teen to be self-sufficient away from home. This includes making major life-affecting decisions regarding dating, drugs, alcohol and sex, as well as mastering day-to-day living skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, managing a budget and last but not least, getting enough sleep.
- Set limits on how much you can financially support your child if he/she decides to take time off. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a break after many years of school but that doesn’t mean your son or daughter should expect you to pay their living expenses.
- Don’t lecture. Try to remain supportive, even if your teen keeps changing his or her mind. More than anything, he/she needs your positive influence and understanding during this transitional time.
We can still treat your teen after high school
Whether your teenager goes off to college, joins the military or starts working, we still care a great deal about his/her health and hope that they contact us any time they have questions or concerns, need information or just want to talk. If they live nearby, they can even continue to be treated by Westchester Health. Whenever, wherever they need us, we’re here for them.
To read Dr. Gomberg’s blog in full, click here.