A Word with the DOCTOR
by Dr John Winsor
The Sunday Times of Malta
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Growing pains

ADOLESCENCE is a difficult period for teenagers, as they have to cope with three different kinds of change.

These changes are both physical and physiological. For example, a girl develops quite marked changes in her form and figure while boys have to start borrowing Dad's razor. He, too, becomes aware of other quite remarkable physical sex developments, besides growing a beard.

Secondly, adolescents have to learn to fit in with the family on a rather new footing and the family has to do some fitting in, as well! Teenagers develop independence and like to take decisions on their own.

Thirdly, the adolescent nearly always has to make radical changes in his or her relationship with the world outside the front gate. These youngsters suffer from changes in schools and teachers and realise they have to face competition with their peers.

These three varieties of change can lead to quite a lot of anxiety and worry. Medical advice is often asked for conditions which do not seem psychological, but merely physical.

Parents have to realise their child is growing up and needs new freedoms, so long as they are not too 'permissive'. The physical symptoms that may begin include headaches, dyspepsia, irritability, and insomnia.

Parents can help by providing a stable home and taking an interest in the youngster's hobbies or sports. Sport is a wonderful way of working off a growing sense of power and muscular ability.

But while parents should do all they can to encourage teenagers to take part in sports, it is worse for them to push their son or daughter into activities they obviously hate. They should also avoid expressing disappointment if their young hopeful doesn't win a swimming or athletic prize.

As for "keeping up with the young Joneses", I believe it is much better to let a youngster follow the fashion trends. It is far more useful for a parent to intervene if there is a chance a teen could be affected psychologically by their physical appearance, for example, seeking treatment if their son or daughter develops severe acne or dealing with weight issues.