16 candles - Millennial babies then, teen health needs now

It seems like just yesterday that your lanky sixteen-year-old was swaddled in your arms, taking his or her first steps, babbling and drooling.

But here we are, in 2016, and your baby born in 2000 is navigating high school and hoping for a driver examination permit.

AtlantiCare providers – parents among them – share tips for keeping your millennial at maximum health. 

“My advice to my sixteen-year-old son and to parents of teens is now is good time to learn independence with the support of your family. Teens can begin to take ownership of their health by talking with their pediatrician at their wellness visits and asking or answering questions. You, as the parent, can assist as necessary with more information or other questions.

“It's also a good time for teens to learn how to make healthy choices about exercise and eating. Teaching your teen to make healthy choices will help him or her develop healthy habits that will benefit your child for years to come.”

 Magna Dias, MD, a CHOP pediatric hospitalist, is medical director, CHOP Care Network and CHOP Urgent Care Network at AtlantiCare

“For most girls, puberty begins between ages 11 and 13. By age 16, most young women are fully developed. They have a menstrual cycle, have developed breasts, and have appropriate hair distribution in accordance with puberty. Most young women do not need to see a gynecologist. You or your daughter should seek care with a gynecological specialist if: she is sexually active; has an irregular menstrual cycle (going months without a period), or has severe menstrual cramps that aren’t controlled by over-the-counter pain medications.

“I think it’s vitally important that parents and teens talk about sexual health. Teach your teen to respect his or her body. Both girls and boys can feel pressure – from partners, friends, peers, and media – to participate in sexual activities. Impress on your teen that his or her actions can have consequences, and that your child should do only what makes him or her comfortable. Speak honestly with your child so that you can help your teen make smart about your sexual choices. If you or your teen has questions, a primary care provider or gynecologist can be a great resource.”

Marvin Hyett, MD, gynecologist, AtlantiCare Physician Group OB/GYN, sees patients in Linwood

“Engaging children of all ages in making healthy choices about nutrition and involving them in meal preparation is a great way to teach them about the link between healthy eating and good health. Teach your teen to read nutrition labels and understand portion size on packaged foods. Packages often contain more than one serving size. The calories, fat, sugar, and salt that your teen is consuming from a bag of chips is likely more than what the label might lead them to believe. Consider putting your teen in charge of making a healthy family meal on a regular basis. That will help him or her learn cooking skills and the importance of healthy food.”

Laura Engelmann, MHA, community health and wellness manager, AtlantiCare, oversees the AtlantiCare Healthy Schools, Healthy Children and Growing Green programs.

“Cell phones are one of the biggest conveniences – and potential safety hazards – this generation will see. As a parent, you want to ensure that as your teen gets behind the wheel for the first time – and that every subsequent time he or she puts keys into the ignition – he or she is approaching the great responsibility and privilege of driving safely.

“Talk to your teen – and to your pre-teens – about the dangers of distracted driving. It’s never too early to teach that cell phones and driving a car don’t mix. No text message or phone call is worth endangering your child’s life or the lives of others on the road.

"Remember, whenever your children are in a car, they should always wear a seatbelt to keep them safe from the potential for an accident. Often it’s the other drivers on the road that they are being protected from. Buckle up yourself to model safe behavior, too. Seatbelts do save lives.”

James Eakins, MD, FACS, is medical director, the Trauma Center, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Atlantic City Campus.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all girls and boys between the ages 11 -12. I make a point to talk with my teenage patients and their parents about getting the vaccine if they haven’t – the vaccine is still effective for teens. It protects against HPV strains that commonly cause anal cervical, oropharyngeal, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The vaccine guards your child against HPV for life, so even if he or she is not sexually active at the time, it protects your child against cancer in the future.

“Additionally, I encourage teens to get involved at school in extracurricular activities, clubs, or sports. These activities are important for your teen’s psychological and physical wellbeing by building social skills and keeping them active.”

Kimberly Jones-Mudd, DO, AtlantiCare Physician Group, sees patients in Hammonton.

“Bullying is a serious issue that can dramatically impact the mental, social, and even physical health of your child or teen. Teach your children to respect others and to respect themselves – to stand up to teasing and to report inappropriate behavior to an authority. If you suspect your teen is being bullied, talk with him or her about, and reach out to your child’s school for help. Bullying can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Enlist the help of a mental health provider or seek counseling for your child if you have concerns about ongoing bullying.

“If you learn that your child is the perpetrator, talk with him or her about bullying. Express your concern as to why he or she might be acting in such a manner, and help your child understand how his or her actions are hurting others. Bullies may act aggressively to mask their own insecurities or their struggle to fit in, and may need mental health counseling themselves.”

Cathleen Morris, LCSW, is director of AtlantiCare Behavioral Health’s Buena School Based Youth Services Program