Navigating Teen Life Q and A

Privacy and Confidentiality

Q: My parents are constantly butting into my business. They want to know what’s going on with me, but sometimes I just don’t feel like talking. What should I do?

A: Try to understand that parents want to be connected to your daily life, and it can build a trusting, mutually respectful relationship. When you don’t feel like talking, the best approach is to be clear, direct and honest. By being honest, parents are more likely to believe what you say.

Q: What is the appropriate amount of privacy I should allow my daughter?

A: It can be very challenging to watch your children grow into adults, but it’s critical to honor their growing independence. If you try and hold them back or limit them too severely, it can lead to rebellious behavior.

Cyber-safety and Device Usage

Q: How much screen time is too much?

A: It is recommended that teens spend less than 2 hours a day on their screens. However, make sure screen time is not interfering with daily activities or causing issues such as sleep disturbance, headaches, eyestrain, neck pain or hand/wrist pain.

Q: What’s an appropriate strategy for managing my teen’s phone and social media usage?

A: It’s best to have an open discussion about setting limits and what works best for your family. Make sure to set limits that are likely to be maintained. It is also important to talk to your teen about what’s appropriate behavior on social media. Some parents even make a “social media contract” to better ensure their teens use social media in a positive manner.

Q: Should I send my boyfriend naked pictures?

A: No. Sharing pictures may seem private, but that is not actually the case. Nothing digital is ever 100 percent guaranteed private. And, once a picture is out there, you can’t take it back and have no control on where it goes.

If you say no and are still getting pressured to send a nude photo, it may mean you need to take another look at your relationship. Someone who cares and respects you should not put you in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Sex and Consent

Q: My boyfriend/girlfriend wants to have sex but I don’t feel ready, how do I say no?

A: Deciding when it’s the right time to have sex is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Don’t feel pressured into having sex when you are not ready. When one person in the relationship wants to have sex and the other person doesn't, it can place stress on a relationship — but you need to do what is right for you and not anyone else. Anyone who pressures you into having sex isn’t looking out for your best interests.

Below are some ways to let your significant other know you are not ready for sex:

  • "I like you a lot, but I'm just not ready to have sex."
  • "You're a great person, but sex isn't how I prove I like someone."
  • "I'd like to wait until I'm older before I make the decision to have sex."

Q: What is consent and why is it important? If someone is drunk or high and they consent to sex, does that make it wrong?

A: Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. Essentially, when permission is given.

Before anything sexual happens, including kissing, hugging, or touching of any kind, both people need to say “YES”, or, in other words, consent. To make sure you have consent, you have to ask. If someone says no, is unsure, or does not say yes, the answer should always be taken as no. Remember this rule as simple as it sounds: “No” always means “no.”

If you ever feel like things are going too far and you’re uncomfortable, tell the person you’re with to stop. A person always has the right to change their mind. Be respectful of others and have open communication. Just because someone agreed to something at one point, doesn’t mean they’re still going to in the heat of the moment. Listen to one another and respect each other’s wishes.

No one can give consent if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Inhibitions are lowered and the thought process is altered. If you purposely get someone drunk or high, or take advantage of him or her while they are, pressuring them into having sex can be considered sexual assault.

Watch this helpful video to help explain consent to your child.

Body Image and Nutrition

Q: My friends can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain weight. I always feel fat. How can I lose weight?

A: Losing weight is different for everyone as some metabolisms are faster than others. First and foremost, it’s important not to compare yourself to others. Find out from your CCP pediatrician if you’re truly overweight. If so, they will help you come up with a plan. It all boils down to portion control, getting plenty of veggies and fruits, and limited processed foods and sugars. Regular exercise is important to stay on top of no matter your size.

Q: What if my child wants to eliminate entire food groups or become a vegetarian? Is that okay?

A: There is always risk involved when eliminating entire food groups. Choosing to go vegetarian or vegan can be perfectly safe, as long as enough nutrients are being taken in. Always speak to your pediatrician about any new drastic diet changes for guidance and to ensure it is a safe mood.

Q: What are the best diets?

A: The answer is that there is no true “best” diet. What works for some will not work for others. The best thing to do is to try to eat a clean, balanced diet and to limit processed, sugary foods. Again, your doctor or pediatrician is the best guide for choosing a nutrition plan that works for you and your dietary needs.

Anxiety and Depression

Q: My friend is depressed, and says that I’m the only person that she can talk to. How can I help?

A: It’s great that you have such a close friendship that your friend feels she can open to you. Simply having a friend to go to is an enormous help in itself. If you often find yourself wondering if your friend needs extra help from a professional such as a therapist/psychiatrist, you are likely right.

It’s important to separate friendships from formal help. As a trusted friend, use that power to encourage to your friend to seek help. However, if your friend is talking about anything life-threatening such as suicide, please step up and talk to a parent or other adult about getting them help.

Q: Sometimes I feel like everything is out of control and I don’t know what to do. Am I normal?

A: It’s not unusual for people, especially teens, to have periods of increased stress when they feel as though they are out of control. Believe it or not, 90% of people have experienced a panic attack at some point in their lives. Seek help from a parent or a professional when you tend to feel this way all of the time vs. sometimes. If it’s just sometimes, try stress relievers such as exercise, meditation, or simply spending time with friends.

Q: For a child who struggles socially, what are some ways to get help?

A: First, help your child find “their people.” This could be through a hobby or sport they enjoy whether it’s chess club, cheerleading, or etc. Help support these social activities within reason. If your child is expressing feelings of loneliness or angst, be there for them and ask questions i.e. has there been a change in your friend group? Who do you consider your friends?

Q: My child seems to be upset a lot lately. Is this just hormones and considered normal, or should I be concerned?

A: Being irritated with parents is unfortunately normal during the teen years. However, if it seems to be 24/7 and you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them, it’s okay to ask how they’re doing and express your concern. Just be thoughtful about how and when you go about asking, and express that you would just like to get along and be there for them.

Drugs and Alcohol

Q: Why is it not okay for me to drink while I’m in high school, but it’s okay when I’m in college?

A: Technically speaking, it shouldn’t be okay in either scenario, but society realizes your independence once you get to college. Regardless of when you choose to drink, it’s so important to keep risks in mind and practice moderation. For instance, the following statistics don’t lie.

  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage drinkers each year; In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
  • Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
  • On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.

Statistics from Center from Disease Control and Prevention 

There are also many consequences that come with underage drinking. Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience…

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

Q: Since weed is legal is some parts of the US, is it okay to smoke at a party?

A: Legal or not, smoking weed comes with many of the same negative consequences as drinking alcohol does. Marijuana affects all people differently. Some will feel more relaxed when using, but others will feel paranoid and anxious. Research shows that 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana will become addicted. Think twice before using this drug, and always say no when it is illegal (in most cases, it is).