Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Health (page 1 of 2)

How to Know If Your Teenager is Too Old for the Pediatrician


It’s the night before my son’s first high school lacrosse practice this season when he realizes he needs the completed doctor’s form to be allowed to participate. “Mom, what should I do?” he asks me. The answer seems obvious to me but it has completed befuddled him. “Call the doctor, ask if you need a checkup for the doctor to complete the form, and if so, make an appointment,” I tell him.

And that’s how the episode begins.

The next day we are in the pediatrician’s office, surrounded by wailing babies and coughing toddlers. Because Garret is 16,  the doctor says I still need to go in with him. Now that we are here, and Garret has learned he will be seeing a female doctor, he is panicked. “Is she going to need to check my pee-pee?” he asks me. This thought never occurred to me before this moment. “I’m not sure,” I say.

Minutes later, (thankfully) we are in the examination room staring at cartoons on the wall and pictures of cute animals. Garret turns to me and says, “Mom, I think I’m too old for this place.”

I act surprised by Garret’s declaration, although secretly I’m thinking the same thing. My two older children went to the pediatrician until they left for college but for some reason, this whole experience has become uncomfortable.

Even worse, suddenly, it’s all about me. As much as I hated going to the pediatrician when the kids were young, I don’t want to be the mom whose kids no longer go. To me, that means I’m old.

In comes the doctor, as nice as can be. She asks a ton of questions and all is well.  Until…the dreaded part of the physical. Now she is telling Garret about STDs and warning him about testicle injuries and yep, she needs to take a look down there. I bury my head in my hands.

“All good,” she says.

We head out the door with the signed form in hand. My son is mortified and he lets me know it. “Mom that was SO awkward,” he says. “I agree,” I tell him. “Next time we will make sure we get one of the male doctors,” I say.

For now, he is satisfied with my answer. For now, I leave with the comforting feeling I still have a child who goes to the pediatrician. I know it won’t last much longer. So, to make us both happy, I grab two lollipops on the way out.

Readers, until what age do you think it’s okay to take a teenager to the pediatrician’s office? Mine told me they see teens up until age 21 and can allow them in without a parent after 18. I think 18 may be the oldest I would consider.

How a mom got her teenagers to give up sugar

Raquel and I can’t imagine completely removing sugar from our teenagers’ diets. So, when Wendy  Dessler told us she had done just that – and had been successful – we wanted to know more about how, when, where and why she pulled off this amazing feat.

You are going to love learning more of the details of how and why this mom got her family to give up sugar.  I think you will be just as awed by her as we were.


By Wendy Dessler

I admit it. When my three kids were toddlers I was much more concerned with their happiness than their health. I thought they were just as cute as they could be with ice cream on their faces and lollypops dripping down their chubby little hands.


They got a little older and we signed them up for dance class and soccer. I thought my little girl looked so precious when I bought the latest dance costumes at Just For Kix and they did just fine if they did still have a little baby fat.

Then I began to see things a bit differently. People started making comments about how my boys should go out for football. I live in the south where “not so nice” things are said in code.

Your boys should go out for football is code for “Dang that is one big kid!” (To which I replied, “Bless your heart!” You can figure out what that is code for)

That’s when I began to pay attention to what they were eating.

By the time they were teenagers, watching them eat was a full-time job. If you don’t know, teenagers require more food than other people and most large animals. They normally eat 3 meals per day and 2 snacks. The snacks last roughly 3 hours each.

I finally decided to put the brakes on sugar when I watched my 15-year-old son pour 1/4 cup of sugar on his Frosted Flakes.

Tip # 1 – Tell them the score.

I have an announcement!

So the night came when I called the family together and made the big announcement. We were going sugar-free.

First, they looked at me and wondered what those strange sounds were coming from my mouth. Then when they understood, they laughed and laughed.

The next day when they came home from school they walked through the newly stocked kitchen that was filled with the freshest fruits and the most beautiful veggie trays nestled between cases of sparkling clear water in the fridge.

Instead of the oohs and aahs I was expecting I heard a chorus of “Mom! There is nothing to eat!”

Tip # 2 – Explain what they are feeling

The terror

Having teenagers is difficult at its best.

I believe that the word “teenager” translates to “mood swings” in some societies.

As their bodies began to adjust to having less sugar, their moods changed – a lot. They would be laughing one minute then slamming doors the next. I really couldn’t tell if it was just teen stuff or if it was the sugar crash. I learned that if the doors they were slamming were cabinet doors, it was probably the sugar.

At first, they would still eat sugar when they left home. But soon something great started to happen. With a little pointing from their father and I, they started noticing nicer skin and fewer headaches.

My youngest son had always been bothered with constipation, suddenly was feeling better. They started reaching for the water without fuss and opting for air popped popcorn instead of snack cakes. Soon they were doing great all by themselves.

By then, I was craving sugar so bad I was dreaming about it.

Tip # 3 – Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way

Cheat carefully

If you force your teens to go sugar-free, do not think you can hide anything.

They can smell the sugar you put in your coffee 4 hours before they got home. They are like a cocker spaniel. You can shove a piece of candy in your pocket, sneak off to the bathroom, unwrap it at a snail’s pace with the shower running and when you open the door, they are standing there saying: “You have candy?”

Admit to yourself that everyone needs a treat from time to time and order some really good sugar-free candy online so you can all have a few pieces from time to time.


Before you begin this journey, you must accept that it is a marathon, not a sprint. This is a long-term challenge which does not have an “ending”. You will face challenges. When my son had his 15th birthday party, he was fine with a tray of sugar-free brownies with whipped cream, nuts, fruits, and candies (all sugar-free without their knowledge) on the side. The kids could make their own treats. But honestly? If you have ever been in a room full of teen boys, you know they inhale food and rarely know how it tastes. The hardest part is keeping them from eating the plates.

When my daughter was turning 14, it was a different story. It was more about the looks, the coolness and it had to be special. For her, I cut the center of a watermelon and shaped it like a tall cake. The “icing” was sugar-free whipped cream and I decorated it with berries and chopped nuts. You can get the recipe here. It was so pretty and so special that she didn’t care that it was not cake. As a matter of fact, she bragged to her friends that she had given up sugar because it was so bad for her skin.

Risk takers

Taking risks, pushing the boundaries, and bending the rules are part of being a teenager. This is the time when they are about to step out on their own. You have told them all their lives not to smoke or drink. This is when they will try a sip or a puff and if you did it right, will feel the pangs of guilt for it. But they will do it. Because they have to learn to fly. You did it, I did it, and they will do it. So it will be with the sugar battle. You will remove the temptation, offer a better solution, and plant the seeds. They will stand, they will fall, but they will get back up. They will go into adulthood with the foundation of a  healthy diet.

To me, that is a success.

Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with ManageBacklinks.io which helps businesses with building their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.  She does that in her spare time, when she is not being a personal chef or personal assistant to her two children.

When mom tells her teen daughter she is fat


I am at Starbuck’s and I’m eavesdropping. I hate to admit that I would do such a thing,  but I just can’t help it. The teens sitting at the table next to me are talking loud and the conversation has lured me in.  “I love your mom,” one of the teenage girls says to the other. “She’s so cool.”  Now, instead of taking the compliment, the other girl replies, “Oh yeah, well this morning my mom told me I was fat.”

I listen as she explains further.  The girl continues on. “My mom asked me to go to the gym with her in the mornings before school. Can you believe that?”  “Really?” asks her friend, sounding horrified. “Yeah, of course I’m not going to go. I don’t have time for that,” she says.

I glance over and from where I was sitting it looks like the young teen girl is  average weight. Sure, the Frappuccino she is drinking isn’t doing anything to trim her waistline, but she by no means seemed overweight. As I sat there taking it all in, I realized that what I did not hear in the conversation was any mention that the girl’s mother had actually said her daughter was fat. She merely invited her to go with her to the gym.

As a mother of a teen daughter, I have learned discussing body issues is dangerous.  Teen girls are super sensitive about their bodies and bringing up the topic of weight is tricky. This girl apparently read more in her mother’s invitation to join her at the gym — whether or not the mother intended it that way. Unfortunately, I could relate. One day I suggested my daughter eat something other than the cupcake she was about to put in her mouth. My comment sparked tears and she insisted I called her fat. I tried to convince her I was just trying to teach her about making healthier eating choices.

As a society, we’ve gotten a little better about expecting females to be stick thin throughout their lives. But for teen girls, carrying extra weight can be difficult mentally and physically. It’s something many mothers worry about. So how exactly do you as a parent handle it when you see your daughter packing on pounds?  Do you say something and risk that she will rebel? Do you couch it in a caring way and avoid the word fat? Do you ignore it completely?

And, what do you do when your daughter says, “I hate my fat thighs?” Is there any right answer?

I have found a well-meaning conversation that’s just about weight or dieting, especially in the heat of the moment, can backfire.  Instead, I noticed conversations go more smoothly when you plan out what you’ll say before you say it, so you don’t cause your daughter to get defensive or worse, develop an eating disorder.   What has worked for me is to talk with my daughter about healthful eating, and how to balance that with exercise.

Lots of teen girls are just figuring out moderation and  what “eating healthy” really means. My friend’s daughter gained a good bit of weight her freshman year of college. My friend was upset and wondered if she should say something. She worried that speaking up would hurt their relationship.  But then, on her own, my friend’s daughter realized that eating late at night can make you put on weight and that skipping breakfast made her ravenous at lunchtime.  She began eating healthier and lost the weight. My friend felt  her daughter needed to figure it out herself and the approach worked. But it doesn’t always play out that way.

As a parent, none of this is easy.  I have found it helps, though, when you make your teen daughter well aware of your unconditional love. Have you ever talked to your teen daughter about her weight? Why do you think so many teen girls walk around saying, “My mother thinks I fat?”


Ohhhh…that smell! Must be a teenage boy

I am standing on the sideline, waiting for my son to emerge from the group huddle after his lacrosse game has ended. Within minutes the team is coming toward me and already I smell the familiar scent of sweaty teenage boys, also known as body odor.  It is a scent that can make you turn your nose away the closer your sweaty son gets to you and one that has you thankful you’re not riding on the team bus home.

For any parent who has opened a gym bag with worn sports gear, you know the smell to which I refer. momIt is a scent like no other.

On the sidelines, I commiserate with other parents. We talk odor control strategy: what spray works best to eliminate the stench from cleats, how often we wash uniforms and gear, what scent reducer we stick in the gym bag.  We also compare notes on deodorant, body wash and shower habits.

From those discussions I have reached this conclusion: There is no deodorant strong enough, nor odor reduction product powerful enough to eliminate the smell of a teenage boy’s sweat.  An online search reveals there is a scientific reason:  Teenage boys smell peculiar because of the hormones they secrete in their sweat during puberty. The smell gets better as they mature — or at least that’s what one website holds out as hope.

smelly teen boy


While my son douses himself in Axe, I find myself wrinkling my nose a lot more often. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find the best sneaker storage spot that will prevent smelly feet odor from lingering and becoming toxic. Don’t even get me started on my battle with stinky socks.

I know I will miss that teen boy smell one day, but for now I am busy figuring out how to breathe it in without passing out.

My son wants to look like Zac Efron



Zac Efron, you are making my parenting job difficult.

After watching you rip your shirt open on the MTV movie awards to reveal your amazing six pack abs,  my 13-year-old son has become obsessed with working out.

While it’s certainly good to be in shape, I’m concerned. Exercise is good. Obsession with body image is not.

As soon my son he returns from the small gym in our neighborhood, he asks me to feel his muscle. Ugh. What’s coming next? Will he ask me to buy him muscle shirts?

Maybe if Zac Efron didn’t get a crazy amount of media coverage every time he went shirtless, my son would think it’s okay to be fit without being ripped.

Anyone who thinks body image is just a teen girl issue doesn’t have a son. As one recent article I read pointed out: The terms ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ are not just descriptors of weight and size, they become descriptors of character. “A boy who is skinny is associated with being weak or small or maybe they are teased and called a ‘girl.’ A boy who is fat is associated with being lazy or unsuccessful.”

For some boys the obsession with bulking up has them turning to steroids, protein powders and all kinds of muscle-enhancing concoctions. Last night when my son came home from the gym, I talked to him about using exercise as a way to relieve stress and stay fit and warned him against getting preoccupied with muscles.

Of course, what teen boy listens to mom when bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physique are they guys in the movies and on television scoring with the ladies?

So Zac Efron, please put your shift back on and use your personality to charm the ladies. It might not get you as much attention but it might help our sons realize they have more to offer than six-pack abs.

Parents, have you noticed boys becoming more obsessed with body image? How have you handled talking to your son about it?


Important to treat your child’s depression

According to the FDA, we must not let childhood depression go untreated. I read the article below and felt it was important to share it. My daughter suffers from mental illness and depression is one of them. Denial isn’t going to help her, but treatment is going to help. This article below hit close to home for me and I felt it probably would for many other parents, too.  Enjoy the read. Hope it helps.


Every psychological disorder, including depression, has some behavioral components.

Depressed children often lack energy and enthusiasm. They become withdrawn, irritable and sulky. They may feel sad, anxious and restless. They may have problems in school, and frequently lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Some parents might think that medication is the solution for depression-related problem behaviors. In fact, that’s not the case. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any drugs solely for the treatment of “behavior problems.” When FDA approves a drug for depression—whether for adults or children—it’s to treat the illness, not the behavior associated with it.

“There are multiple parts to mental illness, and the symptoms are usually what drug companies study and what parents worry about. But it’s rare for us at FDA to target just one part of the illness,” says Mitchell Mathis, M.D., a psychiatrist who is the Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

The first step to treating depression is to get a professional diagnosis; most children who are moody, grouchy or feel that they are misunderstood are not depressed and don’t need any drugs.

Only about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Before puberty, girls and boys have the same incidence of depression. After adolescence, girls are twice as likely to have depression as boys. The trend continues until after menopause. “That’s a clue that depression might be hormonal, but so far, scientists haven’t found out exactly how hormones affect the brain,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Tiffany R. Farchione, M.D., the Acting Deputy Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

It’s hard to tell if a child is depressed or going through a difficult time because the signs and symptoms of depression change as children grow and their brains develop. Also, it can take time to get a correct diagnosis because doctors might be getting just a snapshot of what’s going on with the young patient.

“In psychiatry, it’s easier to take care of adults because you have a lifetime of patient experience to draw from, and patterns are more obvious” says Mathis. “With kids, you don’t have that information. Because we don’t like to label kids with lifelong disorders, we first look for any other reason for those symptoms. And if we diagnose depression, we assess the severity before treating the patient with medications.”

Getting the Proper Care

The second step is to decide on a treatment course, which depends on the severity of the illness and its impact on the child’s life. Treatments for depression often include psychotherapy and medication. FDA has approved two drugs—fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro)—to treat depression in children. Prozac is approved for ages 8 and older; Lexapro for kids 12 and older.

“We need more pediatric studies because many antidepressants approved for adults have not been proven to work in kids,” Farchione says. “When we find a treatment that has been shown to work in kids, we’re encouraged because that drug can have a big impact on a child who doesn’t have many medication treatment options.”

FDA requires that all antidepressants include a boxed warning about the increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24. “All of these medicines work in the brain and the central nervous system, so there are risks. Patients and their doctors have to weigh those risks against the benefits,” Mathis says.

Depression can lead to suicide. Children who take antidepressants might have more suicidal thoughts, which is why the labeling includes a boxed warning on all antidepressants. But the boxed warning does not say not to treat children, just to be aware of, and to monitor them for, signs of suicidality.

“A lot of kids respond very well to drugs. Oftentimes, young people can stop taking the medication after a period of stability, because some of these illnesses are not a chronic disorder like a major depression,” Mathis adds. “There are many things that help young psychiatric patients get better, and drugs are just one of them.”

It’s important that patients and their doctors work together to taper off the medications. Abruptly stopping a treatment without gradually reducing the dose might lead to problems, such as mood disturbance, agitation and irritability.

Depression in children shouldn’t be left untreated. Untreated acute depression may get better on its own, but it relapses and the patient is not cured. Real improvement can take six months or more, and may not be complete without treatment. And the earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcome.

“Kids just don’t have time to leave their depression untreated,” Farchione says. “The social and educational consequences of a lengthy recovery are huge. They could fail a grade. They could lose all of their friends.”

Medications help patients recover sooner and more completely.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Mom of teen: Braving the HPV Vaccine

Today, I had every intention of taking my 16-year-old daughter to get the HPV vaccine.

When we got to the doctor’s office, I chickened out. I just couldn’t let them give it to her.

I’m terrified of  the possible side effects.

I’m just not convinced I know enough about short- and long-term reactions to Gardasil, the  Merck vaccine against four strains of the cancer-causing human papilloma virus

My pediatrician is a big proponent of Gardasil and said he gave both his teen daughters the vaccine, administered in a three-dose series. To him, the prevalence of HPV is too widespread not to get your teen vaccinated. A friend of mine who works as a nurse in a hospital ER is a proponent as well. She’s seen boys admitted with horrific genital warts and oral cancers associated with HPV.

I did some research and this is what I found…


The Center for Disease Control says HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. At least 50% of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives. There are more than 40 types of HPV that cause different symptoms and health problems.

To me, those are some scary facts. I want to protect my daughter from this virus.

Worse,  I learned that HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV. Even more, according to CDC, there is  there is no medicine to treat an HPV infection which can lead to cervical cancer.


I happened upon a website called truthaboutgardasil.org. It scared the crap out of me with stories of girls who had the vaccine and died or suffered seizures, permanent disability and strokes. Even more, there are claims all over the Internet that even if you get vaccinated, your chances of experiencing some form of HPV infection still are high.


From all this, I tried to ferret out the truth. I found some answers on the forbes.com website:

Matthew Herper writes: It’s true that there have been 24,000 reports of adverse events with Gardasil. (All of these numbers come from the VAERS database, which you can search here.) There have also been 60,000 reports of death with the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine, and 26,000 following vaccination with Pfizer‘s Prevnar, for pneumococcus bacteria. And yes, it’s true that there have been 106 deaths reported after Gardasil vaccination. There have also been 101 deaths reported after vaccination with Prevnar 13, a new version of Prevnar introduced in 2010. It’s normal for these reports to pour in for safe vaccines.

His conclusion: The risks from the vaccine are very small and may be limited to headaches and fainting caused by the needle, not the vaccine itself.

This certainly is a tricky health decisions parents must confront — weighing the odds of getting HPV against the odds of an adverse reaction from the vaccine. So far, only 30% of eligible girls have gotten Gardasil or rival product, Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline.


Here are a couple of interesting articles:

The Gardasil Problem: How The U.S. Lost Faith In A Promising Vaccine

Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People

I’m not ruling out having my daughter get the HPV vaccine. Honestly, I’m scared of her being intimate one day with a guy who could give her the HPV virus. But for now, I’m still gathering info.

What are your thoughts on the HPV vaccine? Have you had your  teen daughter vaccinated? Would you consider getting your teen son vaccinated?

Should teens have a bed time?


Want to set a bed time for a teen? Good luck with that.

When my two teens got to high school I gave up on bed times.  I figured they were old enough to manage their time and decide how much sleep they need. Some days, I pay the price.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I thought she should set a summer bed time for her 13-year-old son. She is trying to make him go to bed by 10:30 p.m. Let’s face it; the tactics you’d use for getting a toddler to bed won’t work with a teen. They’d rather eat dirt than have mommy tuck them into bed at 8:30 p.m. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

In my house, I’ve noticed the sleep habits of teens mimic that of vampires. During the school year, my teens are tired from waking up early for school and usually go to bed at a somewhat decent hour.

But on weekends and in summer it’s a different story.  In the first week they had off for summer, before camps started, I woke up at 3 a.m. to find my kids awake and their friends in my home. Usually, if I find my kids up after midnight, I strongly urge them to consider how tired they’re going to feel the next day — something subtle like “YOU’RE GOING TO BE ONE HORRIBLE GRUMP TOMORROW!”

According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the average teenager needs around 9.5 hours of sleep per night because hormones that are critical to growth and sexual maturation are released mostly during slumber. Yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.4 hours a night.

I’ve heard the argument that for teens having a bedtime makes them seem babyish.  If you look at a teen’s Facebook page, the chatter gets pretty heavy between 10 p.m. and midnight so I’m pretty sure most of them are revving up at that hour.

Parenting expert Jan Faull suggests setting a “bedroom time” for your teens, not a bedtime.  I like this idea — kinda like a wind down time.

She says this would be a time when they are required to be in their bedrooms each night when they can read, listen to music (at a reasonable level), or do something else they find relaxing. The exact time should be approached as a negotiation, not a mandate, she says. She warns that once you’ve all agreed to a “bedroom time” realize that you’ll most likely need to remind them nightly when it’s time to go to their rooms until they get used to the idea and go there on their own.

What are your thoughts on setting bed times for teens? Do you think setting a bedroom time would work in your home?

The Choking Game, what’s it all about?

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player
Oh no! Another thing for this stressed out mama to worry about: The Choking Game.

Do you know what the choking game is? I didn’t until I saw a report on ABC News and heard about it also on NPR this week. Apparently, this worry-worthy concern, the choking game, has become increasingly popular with 13 and 14 year olds.

Teens are learning how to play the choking game from YouTube videos and from their friends. As a parent, it’s scary as hell.  It makes me crazy that teens are always so eager to try things they think will make them seem cool.

Here’s the deal: Kids are choking themselves to feel that light headed sensation you would feel right before you pass out. It’s a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. Once a teen succeeds in getting high the first time, they usually try again, and some times, they go too far, killing themselves or causing brain damage.

Parents whose kids have died from it say they wish they had seen the signs –bruising or red marks around the neck, headaches and bloodshot eyes.  The thing about the choking game is “it’s practiced by ‘good kids’ who do not want to do drugs so they perceive that this is a ‘legal’ way to get high.”

Here is a website that describes it in detail.  I bet your teen knows exactly what it is. But do you think they know how deadly it can be? Doctors believe most kids who play it have no idea of the risks.

Just figured as long as I’m talking to my kids about it, you might want to do the same.



You can hear your mom…right son?

How many times a day do you say something to your child, only to have them appear totally oblivious to the fact that words are coming out of your mouth? Ten times a day?

Well, your kid may have a valid excuse — or not. It turns out one in every five teenagers in the  United States has a slight hearing loss. The proportion of teens with slight hearing loss has jumped 30 percent in the past 15 years. I know what you’re thinking. It must be because of that LOUD music they listen to. You’re right, sort of.

There’s some speculation the hearing loss is tied to the increased use of headsets on iPods and other personal music devices, says a new report by The Journal of the American Medical Association. Males are more likely than females to suffer hearing loss, as are teens living below the poverty line.  Unlike other types of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented.

“We need teenagers to get the message to turn down the volume in their MP3 players and other electronic devices because there are no early warning signs,” says Dr. John House.

He recommends getting your teen’s hearing tested if you suspect something’s up.

Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Encourage your child to turn down the volume and take frequent breaks when listening to his iPod.
  •  Consider purchasing noise-reducing ear buds to drown out background noise that otherwise can lead teens to boost the volume on their music players. Also, opt for headphones that cover the ear rather than the earbud-style earphones that come with many players.
  • At concerts or performances, tell your teen to move away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers so they are not directly in front of the speaker.
  • Apple offers an app that lets people set an upper limit on noise


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