“Dr. Bawa said I should focus on my studies and sports so I am not going to be able to spend as much time with you.” These words were uttered by a teenage girl, after we had a long discussion about dating and other issues. Her mother proudly told me that these were the very words that she went and told her boyfriend after our discussion.
It has been shown that physicians discussing issues of dating, drugs, smoking with teenagers makes a big difference in the choices that they make. In light of this information, I have put together a list of topics that I try to discuss with every teenage patient. It has also been shown that parents and elders need to bring up these topics with teenagers and discuss them regularly. Therefore it is very important that we all know how to discuss these critical issues with our youngsters.
Discussing sexual issues is by far the hardest. However, I inform teenagers that there is strong temptation to spend a lot of time with the opposite sex but that it is strongly advised to save that for later in life. Extolling the virtues of abstinence, I inform them that this has been shown to be the only fool proof way of avoiding diseases. Encouraging teenagers to focus on studies and sports, I try to prove to them that dating will only be a waste of time at this age. I do tell them that if they do not abstain then they should use protection. Then I leave it up to them to ask any questions they want. Having this discussion in front of a parent, allows them to contribute to the discussion and add any other valuable insight.
Bringing up drugs, smoking and alcohol is also very important as it has been shown that our children are around these substances at a very young age. Once again, I strongly advise them to abstain from using these substances. Informing them of how drugs have become so much stronger these days, I educate them about the fact they can get addicted to some of them by just a single dose. Therefore, I advise them to refuse drugs altogether and not try any. This includes cigarettes as they are one of the most addictive drugs. Similarly, alcohol has been shown to adversely affect a growing brain so I encourage them not to try alcohol at this age.
Besides these hot topics, I also discuss more mundane issues such as bicycle safety, automobile seat belts, and several other issues. Recently, a parent stated that they discuss these issues with their children all the time, but it helped to have an independent third party say the same things to their child. It only helped to reinforce what they say and sometimes a physician’s advice is listened to better than that of a parents.
Even though I have worked in numerous hospitals and helped save lives, talking to teenagers and discussing these issues has been much more rewarding. There is nothing more valuable than making a positive difference in a teenager’s life.
Therefore, I was ecstatic when this mother told me that her daughter had listened to me and gone and told her boyfriend that she would not be able to spend as much time with him. She told him that her doctor told her to focus on her studies and sports and she was going to do just that. What a smart girl!!!