Dr Jonathan Halevy. — Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice
By Dr Jonathan Halevy*
Teenagers in this day and age are under so much pressure, far more than we have experienced when we, the parents, were at their age.
The ever-rising academic standards a teen is expected to achieve, the fierce competition of getting the right college or university, the high exposure of social media, the unrealistic body image teens and especially girls are supposed to aspire to and the pressure to be perfect in the eyes of their parents and friends are far worse than we ever had to endure.
Bullying and shaming, enhanced by social media that did not exist in our age are far more devastating than before. Unfortunately, parents themselves are much more occupied with their careers than past generations and barely have time to spend with their children. In some instances, kids are either left to be taken care of by a nanny/ maid or neglected and left to their own devices.
Teens who study in international schools fare even worse as their social network and support are often frail and temporary. Students tend to change schools or migrate to other countries, following their parents work, and they are not able to build strong, meaningful, supportive connections with friends.
Sadly, one of the poorly hidden secrets in some of these schools is the high rate of abuse of drugs and alcohol by teen students.
A recent UNICEF study shows that up to 29 per cent of the youth in Việt Nam have reported of suffering from mental health problems, with girls affected more than boys, and about three per cent have committed suicide. The researches fear that this rate may be rising.
What parents should do
Look for signs of stress, anxiety or depression
Look for changes in behaviour – if your child becomes moody, anxious, sad, depressed closed – up or aggressive. If he or she frequently complains of unexplained pain (headache, stomachache, chest pain), breathing difficulty, or being tired all the time. If they stop going out with friends or engage in activities they used to like before. If they suddenly stop eating and drastically lose weight or if they eat too much and become overweight.
Be involved in your child’s life
Be interested in more than just their academic achievements. Get to know their likes and dislikes, their friends, their hobbies. Make it your priority to dedicate time to your child.
Listen without criticism
That’s can be very difficult to do, especially as parents. But parents need to learn to listen to their child without judging them when they talk about their feelings and difficulties. Parents don’t always need to come up with an answer. Listening and caring are sometimes all a teenager wants and needs.
Don’t hesitate to check on your child and set limits
Talk to your child about social media and online safety, about the dangers in exposing sensitive information online. Limit your child’s time on the internet and check what kind of websites they are visiting. Know where is your child going out to and with whom. Teens may find it annoying but it also shows them that you care for them and their safety.
Keep a healthy routine. Even teenagers need a daily routine to help them manage their time and cope with all the tasks they need to perform. Dedicating time for studies, sports, leisure time and sleep can help reduce stress. Make sure you make time for relaxing activities as well.
Limit online time
While the internet has completely changed the way we communicate, learn, and function in our daily lives, there are some setbacks to its constant use, especially for kids and teens. It cuts into other important daily activities like spending time with family and friends, in-person social interaction, homework, study time, and physical activity.
Often overlooked, the serious consequences of too much internet time can impact your kids in a big way. As parents, it is your responsibility to teach your kids how to use the internet mindfully as well as how to stay safe when browsing the web. Doing so will help set the entire family up for success while they surf the web.
Sleep deprivation is unfortunately very common in teenagers. Many of them don’t get enough sleep (at least seven-eight hours a night) and the chronic lack of adequate sleep can have serious emotional and cognitive consequences.
Chronic sleep deprivation can cause attention problems, difficulty concentrating, difficulty processing and memorising information, which can affect the child’s academic achievements. It can lead to chronic fatigue, lack of energy, reduced physical activity, irritability, aggression and depression. It can lead to Binge eating and weight gain. Allowing your teen child to have proper adequate sleep is crucial for his physical and mental health!
The parent should also encourage your children to do things such as: Encourage physical activities, support healthy nutrition
If you feel your child is suffering from depression, anxiety, using alcohol or drugs or thinking of harming themselves, do not hesitate to ask for professional help. A counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist can help both the child and the parent understand and cope with these emotions and regain their lives and self-esteem.
Give your teenage kids the support they need to have a healthy positive and confident life! — Family Medical Practice
*Perhaps the most well-known figure at Family Medical Practice thanks to frequently posting peadiatric advice on social media, Dr Jonathan is a graduate of the Sackler School of Medicine of Tel Aviv University, then undergoing his residency in the Pediatric Department of the Wolfson Medical Centre in Israel, earning his certification as a specialist in paediatrics. He first joined Family Medical Practice in 2005 and returned in 2013 following a short period in Melbourne.
Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.
For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi at: 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình. Tel: (024) 3843 0748. E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FMP’s downtown Hồ Chí Minh City location is: Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn, District 1; 95 Thảo Điền, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E: email@example.com
FMP Đà Nẵng is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E: firstname.lastname@example.org.