When was the last time you had a deep conversation with your son? Not the typical “How was school today?” type of conversation, but an intimate talk concerning your son’s health and disposition. Boys are equally prone to physical and mental health issues as girls, but they tend to receive less attention and care for it. Make sure you are keeping up with your son’s overall health by communicating with him through sound conversations and regular health checkups.
Exercise, Nutrition, and Healthy Weight
In America, 1 in 3 children are considered overweight or obese. Kids just don’t get enough physical activity nowadays; they seem to spend more time looking at a screen than what’s around them. Poor eating choices are also a big factor. For boys, a healthy diet and getting enough exercise are especially important for their overall health. Exercise provides many benefits, such as less stress, better sleep at night, higher self-esteem, and a healthier weight. Talk to your son about his physical health and how you can help him make better choices in his life.
- If you notice that he’s consuming a lot of junk food or fatty foods: Ask him, “How can we add more fruits and vegetables to our diet?” Get his input on the grocery lists, and take him shopping with you so he can pick out the produce he’s interested in.
- Do you feel like he’s lazy and rarely moves about? Ask him, “What can get you moving and active?” Give him some fun suggestions, and let him choose which activity he wants to do. You can join in too!
- Does he show signs of insecurity, especially concerning his body? Ask him, “Do you feel embarrassed about the way you look?” Discuss weight and body image issues with him. Be sure to instill positive ideas about body image as opposed to what the media largely advertises.
Emotional and Mental Health
Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in youth. Research shows that depression is occurring in earlier ages than previous decades. Again, boys are just as prone (if not more) to these issues as girls are.
You can help your son cope with his emotions and talk with him about any obstacles he may face in his life.
- Does he rarely ask for help or advice? Encourage seek for help (professional or personal); don’t let him think that reaching out is a sign of weakness.
- Does he seem to distance himself from family and/or leave the house often? Promote family and home as a safe haven, not a place he wants to avoid.
- Does he seem to limit himself and his potential? Give him support where needed and allow him to freely express himself.
- Is he interested in violence and/or display violent behavior? Try to minimize his exposure to violence; explain why it can be unhealthy and how the media tends to overdramatize it.
Talking to your son about drugs and alcohol is especially important during his adolescent years. Adolescence is the beginning of peer pressure and self-esteem building; it will also be the beginning of exposure both in media and personal relationships to substances. Many factors can lead teenagers to substance use, such as the emotional and physical effects of drugs, how drugs are portrayed by the media, peer pressure, curiosity, thrill-seeking, rebellion against authority, escape from life/pain, and the “it can’t happen to me” mentality concerning consequences.
As a parent, you cannot completely block your son from exposure to substance use, but talking about substance use with him may help guide him to make good decisions.
Adolescent boys tend to show more signs of a learning disability than girls do. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common, as males are three times more likely to develop ADHD than females. If left untreated, you could witness symptoms such as, poor performance and conduct in school, violence and/or aggression, conflict with family and peers, substance abuse, and hyper/impulsive decisions. Ask him:
- Are you having a hard time keeping up at school?
- Do you lose focus/concentration easily?
- Do you have difficulty remembering things?
- Is it hard to communicate with others?
Consulting a physician about medications and treatment methods is important. If continued to be left untreated, learning disabilities that develop early on can become more severe in the long run. Make sure you are communicating with your son about any difficulties he may have, and be on alert for unusual behavior.
The Children’s Hospital of Georgia has the largest team of general pediatricians, adolescent medicine physicians and pediatric specialists in the Augusta area. CHOG offers adolescent care by board-certified adolescent medicine specialists who are trained to understand the unique health and social issues teens and young adults face between the ages of 11 and 21. For more information about CHOG, please visit our website at augustahealth.org/chog or call 706-721-KIDS (5437).
Sources: Nemours: KidsHealth, U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedicineNet, Focus on the Family