Do you worry about your 13-year-old daughter’s health as she approaches puberty? These 10 useful tips from a noted gynaecologist will help her have a healthy and happy adolescence.
By Dr Kamini A Rao
The transition from a child to an adolescent is crucial in your daughter's life. It sets the fundamentals for her future and lays the foundation for her long-term physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Healthy habits formed at this impressionable age will be an asset for life, whereas improper habits formed at this crucial time can persist on to adulthood and be a handicap forever.
1. Awareness about puberty
Your daughter should be made aware of the biological basis of puberty, at a time preceding the onset of menstruation. As a parent, you should talk to your daughter in a logical and supportive manner, so that she is ready to accept the change in herself. She should not have any fear or confusion regarding it. Menstruation should be accepted as a normal and healthy aspect of her life, and all the contemporary superstitions and taboos about it should be kept away from the child’s mind.
2. Menstrual hygiene
Educate your daughter to change the sanitary pads every 4–6 hours, depending on the flow. This is to ensure that menstrual blood doesn’t spill over and soil the clothes, becoming a breeding ground for infection. Choose large and small pads, with or without wings, based on the expected flow rate. Your daughter can also use alternative devices like menstrual cups if she wants. Make sure that if used, she should maintain hygiene and sterility of this. Showering and changing clothes daily, and changing undergarments twice a day, are a must.
Also read: How To Maintain Hygiene During Periods
3. A healthy diet for the growth spurt
When it comes to the diet of your daughter, convenience should not get an upper hand over nutrition. Due to a busy schedule, parents or teenagers themselves, tend to neglect their nutrition. Include high-protein, low-fat and low-carbohydrate foods which are also rich in vitamins and minerals, in your teen's diet. Plan your child's meals one day in advance and make sure her lunchbox is packed with nutrients. A deficiency of nutrients will affect her growth spurt, leaving her exhausted.
Also read: 5 Truths About Raising Teenagers
The importance of staying hydrated cannot be overstated. Teach your child to drink an adequate amount of water daily. Ensure a steady supply of clean drinking water for your teen at school, near to the classroom and encourage her to drink a minimum of 12 glasses of water per day. Fruit juices without added sugar can be a tasty alternative to water. But as far as possible, keep your child away from excessive tea, coffee, carbonated drinks and, flavoured and sweetened artificial drinks.
5. Acne, hair-growth, and body changes
These are the unavoidable discomforts of teenage and need to be approached systematically. Some amount of acne is normal and a healthy cleanliness routine is all that is required. Avoid touching the pimples to prevent infection and avoid squeezing them to prevent scarring the skin. Use a pH-balanced face wash twice a day and avoid oily face creams. Natural remedies like honey and aloe vera are soothing options. If acne is severe and it is affecting your child emotionally, consult a doctor.
Hair growth can be dealt with according to the preference of the child. Excess hair in underarms and private areas can lead to retention of sweat and infection. Hygienic methods of hair removal such as shaving, waxing can be made use of. Help your child in establishing a healthy routine regarding this.
Development of breasts and use of bra is another difficult aspect that needs initiation. Make your child aware and comfortable with her own body and teach her never to feel shy or embarrassed about it. As a mother, you can help her to build a strong body image early on.
A healthy lifestyle is incomplete without the daily dose of wholesome exercise and fresh air. Encourage your daughter to incorporate at least 30–45 minutes of outdoor activities in her schedule. The exercise will not only provide her with the strength and energy for the day, it will also lay the foundation for a healthy practice that will persist on to adulthood and safeguard her from lifestyle diseases. Aerobic exercises can range from walking and running to playing games like badminton, basketball, swimming and so on.
7. Quiet time and relaxation
At least 30–45 minutes of quiet time must be allotted in your child’s schedule to help her unwind and re-energised. Let her learn to find solace in this quiet time so that she can maintain a positive frame of mind always. This time can be spent on meditation, yoga, reading story books, drawing, painting, and creative craftwork, etc. This segment of her day can teach her to find peace within herself amidst the chaos of everyday life, helping her stay balanced.
8. Sound sleep
Your daughter needs at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. Healthy sleep habits include going to bed and getting up at a regular hour each day, maintaining sleep hygiene by wearing fresh and comfortable sleep clothes, using fresh bed linen, avoiding liquids and caffeine close to bedtime and avoiding all-night studying before the exams. Teach your child to manage her studies effectively at a stipulated time and to avoid compromising sleep time for studying. Avoid intermittent alarms and interruptions while sleeping. 'Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise' still holds good in today’s era.
9. Emotional intelligence
Adolescence is an important time for the overall emotional development of your child. A whole-hearted support to the child from her family and teachers is essential to let her grow into a well-balanced individual. No matter what the situation, always be available as an unlimited source of support to her. Parents and teachers should never be judgemental of a child. Learn to respect her decisions while correcting her mistakes. Criticism and hard-handedness will make a child emotionally distant from her family and peers and she might not come forward with her problems. A child, however young, has an individuality and self-respect, which needs to be protected at every attempt to correct her wrong-doings.
10. Sex education
Your teenage daughter must be given scientific awareness of normal biological processes. Sex should not be a taboo subject and as a parent, you must explain the basic aspects of sex and sexuality to your teenage child. This, in fact, prevents the child from gathering wrong information about it from doubtful sources. It also safeguards your child from a potential child abuser. Talk to your child about how much body contact is socially acceptable and to report to you if anyone crosses that line, be it a family member or any other respected member of society. Your child must always feel confident to approach you with such an issue. And, this confidence will never come to her unless the subject has been discussed with her before.
Padma Shri Dr Kamini A Rao is the Medical Director at Milann – Centre for Reproductive Medicine (A Unit of BACC Healthcare Pvt Ltd).
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Dr Kamini A Rao