Religious Background Tied to Lower Health Risks in Teens

Adolescents who regularly attended religious services had 33% reduced odds of illicit drug use, 12% lower depression risk and 18% increased likelihood of reporting high happiness levels, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers also found a 30% reduced risk of early sex initiation and 40% lower likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases among those who frequently prayed or meditated.  Read more.

Early Family Experience Affects Later Romantic Relationships

Learning how to form and sustain happy and healthy romantic relationships is a key skill for young adults. Such relationships are based on feelings of love, effective problem-solving, and the absence of physical and verbal violence. The ability to develop a healthy relationship can be influenced by the experiences people have had within their own families. However, the ways in which the family environment influences interpersonal skills and romantic relationships aren’t well understood.

A team of researchers led by Penn State graduate student Mengya Xia set out to explore how interpersonal skills and family factors affect romantic relationships. They examined data from a long-term study on preventing substance use among more than 10,000 youths in rural and semi-rural communities in Pennsylvania and Iowa. A randomly selected set of nearly 2,000 participated in a later follow-up project when they were young adults. For this analysis, the team included the 974 participants between 18 and 21 years old who were in a steady romantic relationship. The study was supported by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The results were published in the July 2018 issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Read more from NIH Research Matters

How to Get Teens to Eat Breakfast

It might be a challenge to get teenagers to do anything, but getting them to eat the most important meal of the day doesn’t have to be.

Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, has tips on how to get teens to eat breakfast.

Studies suggest 60 percent of U.S. teens don’t eat breakfast every day and 14 percent skip breakfast more or all days of the week, according to Squires.

She said that parents can make breakfast easy for teens by having food they can grab and eat, such as breakfast burritos, smoothies, yogurt, egg sandwiches and bagels.

“You know they’re going to be sleepy,” Squires said, suggesting parents give teens something to grab on the go such as cut-up cheese or nuts.

Moreover, parents can encourage teenagers to eat breakfast by modeling good habits and eating breakfast themselves.

Help Teens Get the Sleep They Need

Starting around puberty, kids start getting tired later at night. While it might seem like they need less sleep, in fact, teens need about 9 hours of sleep at night. Unfortunately, most teens do not get the sleep they need.

What Makes it Hard for Teens to Sleep?

Several factors make it hard for teens to get the sleep they need:

  • Schedule. The average teen gets tired around 11 p.m. and has to get up between 6 and 7 a.m. to get to school on time. This makes it impossible to get 9 hours of sleep.
  • Homework. The push to succeed can backfire when kids sacrifice sleep to do homework. After a night of too little sleep, your teen may not be able to focus in class or absorb new material.
  • Texting. Even early evening texts can disrupt sleep. Hearing constant text alerts can make it impossible to wind down and relax into sleep.

What Parents can do

  • Make rules about bedtime. Set a bedtime for your teen, and yourself, and make sure you stick with it.
  • Limit nighttime activities.  Consider limiting the number of weeknights your child stays out past dinner.
  • Offer homework support.  If they have a heavy semester, help them schedule homework time and limit other activities.
  • Set technology boundaries.  You might make a rule that no devices are allowed in the bedroom after a certain hour.
  • Promote relaxing activities. In the hour or so before bedtime, encourage your child to do something relaxing. This might mean reading a book or taking a warm shower. Encourage your teen to explore ways to unwind so sleep can come.

Strengthen Your Family’s Bonds

Happy families have strong family bonds. Create a firm foundation by committing to these practices that will strengthen your family’s relationships:

Schedule Family Time

Try to make a regular night, maybe once a week, when the entire family gets together for a fun activity. By keeping it on a regular schedule, everyone will know that they need to keep that night clear for family times.

Eat Meals Together

Studies have shown that eating meals together helps reinforce communication. Don’t allow phones or other electronics, either.  If you unable to get together as a family for dinner because of busy schedules, try breakfast.

Do Chores as a Family

Make cleaning your home or caring for the yard a responsibility of the whole family.

Create a Mission Statement

It may seem a little corny or too business-like, but it works.  A family mission statement can remind every family member about your core values or what you love most about each other. It is simple and fun to develop as a family (it’s a great project for family night). Place your mission statement in a predominant place in your home. Read it and talk about it often.

Have Family Meetings

Family meetings are a good time for everyone to check in with each other, air grievances, or discuss future plans (like a vacation!). These can be scheduled events or you can make them impromptu and allow any member of the family to call a meeting if they feel the need. Start each of these meetings by reading your family mission statement.

Encourage Support

Encourage everyone to learn about things that are important to everyone else and to support each other through good and bad times. Share when something goes well at work. Ask your child how their test went. Commiserate when your kid’s team loses a game. Celebrate good grades and reward good behavior by doing something special together.

Take Time for Yourself

Parenting is a huge responsibility that you are required to fulfill every day.  The reality is that you will be a better parent when you take some time just for you. Do something you enjoy, even if only for a few minutes.


Giving your time to make someone else’s life better is always a powerful learning experience. Spending a day at the local food bank or a weekend building a home for charity will be valuable experiences you can share throughout your life.

Get Involved in Your Child’s Interests

You don’t have to be the coach, but you can help out with a fundraiser or be in charge of snacks for the bus on an away game night. Ask where you can help, it will show your child you care about what they are interested in.

Join Other Families

Being with other families will strengthen your own family bonds.

U.S. Teens Less Sweet on Soft Drinks

American teens are turning their backs on soft drinks, says a new government survey that shows soda consumption among youth declined by almost a third in just two years.

Instead, bottled water has become the drink of choice for many, the researchers found.

“Over the past 15 years, a great deal of research has demonstrated that sugar drinks promote weight gain and obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” explained Michael Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “That evidence has fueled campaigns to reduce consumption.”

These efforts have led to sugary drinks being banned from schools, government agencies reducing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from cafeterias and vending machines, and adoption of sales taxes on sugary drinks, said Jacobson, who was not involved in the survey.

Even the beverage industry has joined up. In 2014, the three largest soda companies — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group — pledged to cut the amount of calories that Americans get from sugary drinks by one-fifth over the coming decade.

The government survey, conducted recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that in 2015:

  • 20 percent of students reported drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage one or more times per day during the previous week, down from 27 percent in 2013 and 34 percent in 2007.
  • 26 percent of teens said they had not consumed any sugary soda at all in the previous seven days, up from 22 percent in 2013 and about 19 percent in 2007.

Public campaigns appear to be convincing kids that they shouldn’t guzzle soda loaded with empty calories, experts said.

Click here to read more

Source:  Health Finder

Family Key to Helping Teens Avoid Obesity

Having a stable family and a good relationship with mom and dad makes young people more likely to develop healthy habits that may protect them against obesity, a new study suggests.

The researchers also found that fathers are especially important for helping their sons to develop behaviors that will allow them to maintain a healthy weight.

“A high level of family dysfunction may interfere with the development of healthful behaviors due to the families’ limited ability to develop routines related to eating, sleep or activity behaviors, which can lead to excess weight gain,” said the study’s lead author, Jess Haines, of the University of Guelph in Ontario.

For the study, the researchers reviewed information on about 3,700 daughters and 2,600 sons, aged 14 to 24, in the United States.

About 80 percent reported having close and stable families. The findings showed that 60 percent of daughters and 50 percent of sons said they had a good relationship with their parents.

The investigators found that children with stable families and strong relationships with their parents were more likely to follow a healthy diet. They were also more likely to be physically active and get enough sleep.

The daughters in these families ate less fast food, and were less likely to be overweight or obese, the researchers found.

Click here to read more about the family’s role in helping teens avoid obesity.

Source: Healthy Day News, July 1, 2016

Bullying, Excessive Internet Use Up Suicide Risks Among Teens

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that teens who are bullied or use internet excessively may be at an increased risk of suicide.

The report is based on findings from a new study that found bullying and excessive Internet use have led to suicide becoming the second leading cause of death, after road accidents and accidental overdoses, for older teens, between the ages of 15 and 19.

“Bullying has always been a major issue for adolescents, but there is now greater recognition of the connection between bullying and suicide,” said lead author of the study Benjamin Shain, MD, head of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at North Shore University Health System, adding that the advent of social media has elevated the rate suicide thoughts and attempts in today’s teen generation.

“The internet is a key influence, as well. Cyberbullying, for example is as serious problem as face-to-face bullying,“ Dr. Shain added.

The study found that teenagers who spend more than five hours a day on internet are at a greater risk of trying to kill themselves.

The study also found a difference among the genders when it comes to an association between bullying and suicide risk. “Boys seem to require repeated bullying to have a substantial negative effect, whereas girls it could be one episode,” Dr. Shain said.

In the wake of fresh evidence revealing a strong association between bullying & excessive internet use and suicides among adolescents, Dr.Shain and colleagues are urging pediatricians to screen their teen patients for suicidal thoughts and other factors associated with increased suicide risk.

Based on their findings, the researchers emphasized on the role of parents and physicians when it comes to curb teen suicides.

“Pediatricians need to be aware of the problem overall,” Shain said. “They should be screening for things like mood disorders, substance abuse as well as bullying.”

“Physicians, including pediatricians, can play a critical role in identifying mental health conditions and in preventing suicide,” added Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

According to her, doctors should be trained to identify teens who may be thinking of taking their own lives.

The AAP report was published in the July 2016 Pediatrics (published online June 27)

Source: Health News Line

Be Active with Grandparents

Being physically active can be more fun for kids when they’re with someone they love—their grandparents.

Shared time—no matter what the activity—is bonding time.

Infants and toddlers

  • Have grandparents take them for walks in the stroller and rides on their bikes. Don’t forget their helmets.
  • Play games that get their bodies moving—Wheels on the Bus, Pretend We’re Animals, and Hide-and-Seek.
  • Sign them up for baby yoga or exercise classes.
  • Have grandparents take them to baby-friendly swimming classes.

School-aged children

  • Have grandparents walk kids to the park and push their swing.
  • Play catch, kickball, basketball, or soccer.
  • Go swimming or biking together.
  • Play a video fitness game together and see who wins!

Teens and young adults

  • Have grandparents participate in activities that interest the teens and young adults. Try hiking, fishing, skating, or tennis.
  • Go golfing or swimming. Have them participate in physical activities that require two people, such as doubles tennis.
  • Have teens and young adults help their grandparents in their garden or with heavy-duty household chores.

Sleepy Teens Are Risk-Taking Teens

Sleep-deprived high school students are more likely to sustain injuries — often due to risky behaviors — than those who are well rested, U.S. health officials reported.

In a study of more than 50,000 students, researchers found that those teens who got seven hours of sleep or less on school nights were more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, riding with a drinking driver, and drinking and driving.

The study also found that teens who slept 10 or more hours a night were also prone to injuries and risky behaviors, compared with students who slept nine hours.

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