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Health Support at Turves Green Boys

Common Teenage Health Concerns

Sleep Deprivation

As part of the PSHE curriculum in school, all boys are taught about the effects a lack of sleep can have from a lack of concentration to aggressive behaviour and reduced performance in exams.

A minimum of 8 to 9 hours' good sleep on school nights is recommended for teens.

…which is easier said than done!

More than half of parents of teens with sleep troubles think electronics are to blame.

Once they hit puberty, adolescents need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, but just over a third of British teens say they are getting at least eight hours on a typical school night.

And research shows that inadequate or disrupted sleep can have long-lasting health effects.

“Teen sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue because most young adults simply aren’t getting enough sleep,” says Dr Ellen Selkie , an adolescent medicine physician at Alder Hey. “We sometimes focus on sleep quality for young children but forget that adolescents’ brains and bodies are still developing, too.”

Poor sleep negatively affects teens’ ability to concentrate and perform well at school, Selkie notes. Research also links inadequate sleep to health problems ranging from obesity to anxiety and depression. Mood problems also can impair relationships.

For teen drivers, lack of quality sleep can be particularly dangerous, increasing their risk of car accidents.

So what’s a parent to do?

Here's how to make sure your teen is getting enough sleep to stay healthy and do well at school.

Limit screens in the bedroom

If possible, don't have a mobile, tablet, TV or computer in the bedroom at night, as the light from the screen interferes with sleep. 

Having screens in the bedroom also means your teen is more likely to stay up late interacting with friends on social media.

Encourage your teenager to have at least 30 minutes of screen-free time before going to sleep.

Exercise for better sleep

It's official: regular exercise helps you sleep more soundly, as well as improving your general health.

Teenagers should be aiming for at least 60 minutes' exercise every day, including aerobic activities such as fast walking and running.

Exercising out in daylight will help to encourage healthy sleep patterns, too.

Read more about how much exercise teenagers need.

Cut out the caffeine

Suggest that your teenager drinks less caffeine – found in drinks such as cola, tea and coffee – particularly in the 4 hours before bed.

Too much caffeine can stop them falling asleep and reduce the amount of deep sleep they have.

Don't binge before bedtime

Let teenagers know that eating too much, or too little, close to bedtime can lead to an overfull or empty stomach. This can be a cause of discomfort during the night and may prevent sleep.

Have a good routine

Encourage your teenager to get into a regular bedtime routine. Doing the same things in the same order an hour or so before bed can help them drift off to sleep.

Use these bedtime routine tips.

Create a sleep-friendly bedroom

Ensure your teenager has a good sleeping environment – ideally a room that is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable.

It might be worth investing in thicker curtains or a blackout blind to help block out early summer mornings and light evenings.

Talk through any problems

Talk to your teenager about anything they're worried about. This will help them to put their problems into perspective and sleep better.

Read some advice on how to talk to your teenager.

You could also encourage them to jot down their worries or make a to-do list before they go to bed. This should mean they're less likely to lie awake worrying during the night.

Avoid long weekend lie-ins

Encourage your teen to not sleep in for hours at weekends. Late nights and long lie-ins can disrupt your body clock and leave you with weekend "jet lag" on Monday morning. 

Useful links on Sleep deprivation

Vaping and Smoking

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by the heated nicotine liquid (often called “juice”) of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette or e-cig), vape pen, or personal vaporizer. It’s also commonly called JUULing (pronounced jewel-ing).

Useful links on Vaping

Smoking in young people

Children and cigarette smoking are a bad combination. Statistics show that 90% of adult smokers started smoking as children. Each day in the UK, 150 kids under age 18 smoke their first cigarette.

Children start smoking for a variety of reasons. Some think it makes them look cool, appear older, fit in with other kids, lose weight, or seem tough. Some do it just to feel independent. Some do it just because they've seen it all their life and think its normal.

You should start the dialogue about tobacco use at age 5 or 6, and continue it through the high school years. Many kids start using tobacco by age 11, and many are addicted by age 14. Try talking to your children about smoking before school, on the way to practice or rehearsals, or after dinner.

Parents must make sure children understand the dangers of smoking. Smoking can cause cancerheart disease, and lung disease. Short-term effects include coughing and throat irritation. Over time, increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as bronchitis and emphysema, can result.

The best ways to prevent your children from smoking are to:

  • Encourage your children to get involved in activities that prohibit smoking, including sports.
  • Keep talking to your children about the dangers of smoking. If friends or relatives have died from tobacco-related illnesses, let your kids know.
  • Ask your children what they find appealing -- or unappealing -- about smoking.
  • Discuss ways to respond to peer pressure about smoking.
  • Know if your kids' friends use tobacco. Encourage your children to walk away from friends who don't recognize or respect their reasons for not smoking.
  • Make, and abide by, strong rules that exclude smoking from your house.
  • If you smoke, quit. It's important to set a good example.
  • If you do smoke, let your children know that you made a mistake by starting and will try to stop.
  • Never smoke in front of children, offer them cigarettes, or leave cigarettes where they can find them.

Certain signs may suggest that your child is smoking. They include:

  • Smoke smell on clothing
  •  Coughing
  • Throat irritation
  • Hoarseness
  •  Bad breath
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Greater susceptibility to colds
  •  Stained teeth and clothing (which also can be signs of chewing tobacco use)
  • Shortness of breath

If you notice any of these signs of smoking in your child, don't overreact. Ask your child about it first. Smelling smoke on his or her clothes, for example, may mean your child has been hanging around with friends who smoke. It could also mean your child has tried a cigarette. Remember that many kids try a cigarette at one time or another, but don't necessarily go on to become regular smokers.

Useful links on Smoking

Personal Hygiene

Teenagers know the basics of good hygiene. They understand the importance of washing each day, brushing their teeth and shampooing their hair but when they hit puberty their bodies fly out of control and they must learn a new set of rules. Having a frank, private discussion about hygiene is a great way for parents to let adolescents know that everything they are experiencing is normal. It also allows parents to explain to teens why their bodies are changing and make recommendations about new hygiene practices and products. Parents can also use this discussion to advise teens about what is not normal, and what to do if they experience abnormal changes.

Speak Frankly and Privately

When you decide it’s time to talk to your adolescent do so frankly, with clinical language if you feel more comfortable, and privately. This is a topic that necessarily focuses on their bodies, so teens usually find it embarrassing. If possible, take your teen aside for this chat before they begin to experience puberty so that they aren’t left wondering if something that has happened to them or something they did was the catalyst for the talk. Even though they shouldn’t, many teens will end up feeling as though they are somehow at fault if a parent has to tell them they are not coping with puberty correctly.

Reassure Your Teen

As you begin your chat reassure your teen that everything that is happening to him is completely normal. Remind your teen that puberty happens to everyone, and whether he experiences it before or after friends doesn’t really matter. You may even consider relating a story about your own feelings during this time of your life but remember that over-sharing can be embarrassing for both you and your teen and could actually result in him “turning off” for the rest of your discussion.

Explain Changes to Your Teen

As you discuss personal hygiene you’ll need to talk about why a new regime is necessary. This means acknowledging the changes your adolescent’s body will undergo. Explain that he should prepare for, among other things:

  • Hair growing beneath the arms.
  • Hair growth near the genitals.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Increased oil production.
  • Potential height and weight gain.
  • Acne.
  • Body odour.
  • Deepening of the voice.
  • Facial hair.
  • Hormone surges accompanied by mood swings.

Make Recommendations for Your Teen

After explaining to your adolescent all of the changes his or her body will undergo, make recommendations about how best to cope with these new issues. Good hygiene may seem instinctive when you’ve been practising it for decades but teens are new to this topic. If possible, touch on:

  • Wearing antiperspirant or deodorant and your recommended brands.
  • Showering daily and preferred brands of soap or body wash.
  • Shaving routines and products.
  • Fighting facial acne (daily washes and acne treatments).
  • Fighting body acne (cleaning, drying, treating).
  • Good oral hygiene and fighting bad breath.
  • Cleaning and clipping nails on fingers and toes.
  • Healthy diet.
  • Good sleep routines.

Advise About the Abnormal

Adolescents often worry that they are the only ones experiencing body changes, and as such there will be no way for them to maintain good hygiene. Let your teen ask you any questions he may have and offer to help him or her research products for particular concerns. Also touch on changes or hygiene routines which are abnormal (insomnia, juice fasts, coloured discharges, bleeding gums, etc) and remind your teen that if they experience something concerning they should talk to you, a trusted teacher, a GP or another adult.

Talking to an adolescent about hygiene has the potential to be embarrassing for you both, but speaking frankly and privately should help alleviate some of the tension. Reassure your teen about puberty and explaining what will happen and what kind of products and routines are important for keeping up with good personal hygiene throughout. Also advise your teen about abnormal changes, routines and products so that he doesn’t suffer through anything he shouldn’t have to.


My Teen Won't Bathe!

Although it is seen more commonly in the preteen years, sometimes teens will refuse to shower or bathe. First, it's important to understand whether or not the reduced bathing is a problem for your teen or a problem for you. If you feel your teen should shower daily, but she thinks that every other day is fine and she is reasonably clean, perhaps agreeing to disagree would be a reasonable path. If he is not showering and is visibly dirty, smells bad, or is not getting along at school because of the situation, then it is a problem.

There are a few ways to deal with a teen who won't bathe or keep up basic hygiene. One way is to purchase personal care items geared for teens. Deodorant, soap, body spray, or even acne face wash that are left in the bathroom might magically disappear in a few weeks. Don't buy what you would buy, but look for products geared towards teens.

Another way is to have a basic hygiene discussion with your child. Sometimes when you are driving (and they are a captive audience), you can get a short message in about what is expected, hygiene-wise. Although this is covered in lessons at school regularly, it is a much more meaningful conversation at home!

If the problem is severe enough and is impacting how your child interacts with other teens, professional help may be in order. Make an appointment with your GP.