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Published on August 17, 2018

teenage girl with peace sign and sticking out her tongue

Guiding your child through the teen years

The teenage years are a crucial turning point in children's lives. Pediatricians at Gundersen Health System have the following advice for teens and their parents to help keep them healthy and safe – both physically and mentally.

Vaccinations: Teenagers who go unvaccinated put themselves, their families and communities at risk for several potentially life-threatening diseases. Gundersen recommends that children ages 11 and 12 receive the following vaccinations:

  • Tdap booster – protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis/whooping cough
  • MCV4 – protects against meningococcal infections (a booster is also needed at age 16)
  • HPV – protects against human papillomavirus, which can cause several types of cancer
  • Flu – recommended annually to protect against flu viruses

Depression: While moodiness in teens is normal, depression should be addressed and treated. Watch for symptoms such as loss of interest in family, friends or activities; feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness; or talk of suicide or death.

Vaping: Vaping can harm your body just as much as traditional tobacco products. While vaping flavors can be appealing, they contain large amounts of nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. Talk with your teen about the dangers of vaping.

Screen time: Limit teens to one to two hours of screen time a day. More can lead to obesity, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression and more. Keep them off their electronics by encouraging them to get involved in clubs at school and in the community, and giving them responsibilities around the house.

Sleep issues: Teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep per night. Enforce a regular bedtime routine to help them get the proper amount. Chronic sleep deprivation can result in difficulties learning and paying attention in school, and can lead to weight issues.

Talk with your child's primary care provider about any concerns you or your child may have about their health.

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