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Adolescence is a crucial period of transition, marking the shift from childhood to adulthood, and encompasses physical, mental, and psychosocial changes. It is characterized by a surge of energy, physical transformation, and new experiences. According to the World Health Organization, adolescence spans the ages of 10-19, while youth encompasses those between 15 and 24 years. The term “young people” is used for those aged 10-24 years.

Due to the diverse and complex developmental changes that occur during this period, adolescence is often divided into three substages: early adolescence (10-14 years), mid-adolescence (15-17 years), and late adolescence (>17 years). Many parents find the early adolescence phase to be the most challenging, as adolescents are often treated simultaneously as children and adults, adding to the confusion.

Why is it important to understand this phase of adolescence in our children?

Adolescents are a crucial and essential part of society and are expected to be the driving force behind future economic growth and innovation. With young people making up a significant proportion of the global population, it is crucial to address their physical and mental health needs. Adolescence is a complex and critical period of life that can be difficult to navigate. Young people face various challenges as they move towards independence, and it is essential not to dismiss their struggles as just a phase of teenage development. These changes may sometimes be a sign of more severe underlying issues that require attention and intervention.

What are the various mental challenges faced by adolescents?

According to the World Health Organization, around 20% of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental health issues that cause disability. These issues are often attributed to psychosocial factors rather than biological ones. Adolescents are emotionally vulnerable and engage in risk-taking behaviors while navigating the challenges of this period. Mental health issues can begin before the age of 25 and include depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. These issues can lead to other risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unsafe sex, aggression, and criminal activities. Adolescents may experience social anxiety when performing in front of others and may struggle with body image and eating disorders. Mood swings and poor emotional control can also contribute to depression and self-harm, including cutting or repeat overdoses.

How to inculcate a habit of healthy lifestyle in my teenager?

The teenage years can be an exciting and fun time for adolescents but a nerve-wracking time for parents. As you give your teenager more independence and responsibilities, it is crucial to instill in them healthy habits that are essential for living a long and happy life. By helping them form these habits now, you provide them with the tools to navigate any challenges they may face as they grow into adulthood.

To be effective, you must lead by example and be a role model for your teen. Some healthy habits for teenagers include:

Good hygiene
Teens need to maintain cleanliness of their body, teeth, hair, nails, etc.
Daily exercise:
Engaging in physical activities such as cycling, football, cricket, etc., is essential for maintaining physical health. Discourage/limit screen time and have a walk with them or play outdoor sports on weekends. Explain the benefits of exercise and physical activity and be a role model for them by exercising regularly.

To know more from your pediatrician, consult Dr. Sushma at Sri Anand Child and Neuro Center.

Healthy diet:
Proper nutrition is crucial for teens, as they are still growing and have increased appetites. It may be challenging to ensure they are eating the right amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products as they spend more time at school and with friends than at home. It is advisable to avoid junk food and soft drinks and have healthy snacks readily available. Having nutritious family meals together a few times a week and involving your teen in food shopping and cooking will also help them prepare nutritious meals when they are on their own.
Sleep hygiene
Teens require 8–10 hours of sleep each night for sound sleep. Encourage them not to nap too much in the afternoon, and avoid using screens, mobiles, or watching TV programs and serials at night hours. Explain the benefits of proper sleep and its usefulness.
Find passion
While physical health is important, so is mental health. Encourage your teen to find hobbies and interests that ignite their passions, whether it is drawing, writing, or music/singing. Doing something they love will help them handle stress better and have a more positive outlook on life.