Want to support your 10th-grader's physical health? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 10th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to an Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities they are doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of their overall level of physical activity.
It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.
Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage them to start by changing their behavior gradually. Even setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that your child will be able to see and feel.
Make activity appealing
If you are concerned that your teenager is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to him. If they are shy about exercising with others, for example, home exercise videos could help them be more active. Your teen is now old enough that they can make their own choices about the kinds of physical activity they want to do. Help them understand that however they choose to be active is fine, as long as they are physically active on a regular basis.
Encourage your teenager to become active in organized sports, which can be an excellent way of get the recommended amounts of physical activity and establishing regular exercise habits that can become the basis of lifelong fitness.
Walk or bike to school
One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your teen, encourage the practice.
Sports and activities
Encourage your teen to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits them. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let them sample a variety of sports to find their interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to them. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if they are not a “natural athlete” they still learn to enjoy participating and pushing themselves to improve.
The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your teenager to take play actively or exercise before doing their homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if they are getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that your child clear their head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.
If your teenager is looking to supplement their income with a part-time job, encourage them to explore options that incorporate physical activity, such as making deliveries, babysitting, or helping to coach a sports teach.
Limit sedentary time
Limit the amount of time your teenager is sedentary in front of the television or computer monitor. They should remain inactive for no more than an hour at a time.
Too much exercise
In addition to being aware of whether your teenager is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if your child appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wrestling or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.
Help understand changes
Help your teenager to understand the various changes that are transforming their body and assure them that these are normal aspects of growing up. Encourage your teen to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from a physician or other reputable sources.
Make sure that your adolescent understands the importance of personal hygiene and that they have all the necessary supplies to insure that they are well-groomed and clean. Help them shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.
Talk to your child about good menstrual hygiene and make sure your child all the supplies your child needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.
Face and hair
Your teenager’s face and hair will be much oilier than they were when they were younger. They may benefit from trying facial cleansers or shampoos specifically targeted to adolescents.
If your child wears makeup, teach them to remove it and to wash their face thoroughly before they go to sleep at night.
Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your teen’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist.
Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply.
Learning to handle their hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 10th-grader if they are struggling or resistant. Make sure they understand how important hygiene is and that it is their responsibility to take care of their body and keep it clean.
Regular dentist check ups
Your teen should see a dentist for regular annual checkups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends check-ups every six months, but also advises consulting with their dentist about how often to visit based on your teen's oral health. Ask the dentist about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect against cavities and decay.
Tooth decay and cavities
Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Your child should be brushing their teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Your child should be flossing every day.
If your child plays a contact sport, they should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.
If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.
Your child may try to make up for an inadequate sleeping schedule by bingeing on sleep during the weekends. By creating a rule that your child cannot sleep in later than 10 a.m. on the weekends, you will establish clear expectations around sleep and help them to avoid the drowsiness caused by an uneven sleep schedule.
Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 p.m. because it will disrupt an evening of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have them set an alarm to ensure that they wake up after 20 minutes.
Setting a bedtime
With age comes greater responsibility. Now that they are in high school, your teen will most likely be setting their own bedtime. Work with them to create a plan that sets aside enough time to sleep each evening. If their bedtime is constantly getting pushed back, they are probably over scheduled and should consider dropping some of their commitments.
Help your teen maintain a regular study schedule so that they aren't cramming the night before a major test. Researchers have found that the costs of losing sleep far outweigh the academic benefits of staying up late to study. Studying for a few hours every night will ensure that your teen can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam and retain the information that they learned.
Caffeine and nicotine
Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and prevent a healthy night of sleep, especially if consumed after 4 p.m. If your child is having trouble sleeping, consider having them cut out caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, and nicotine for at least two weeks.
Now that your child is on the verge of driving, it is important to talk to them about the negative consequences of driving while sleep deprived. Sleepiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents among teenagers. Research shows that teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours a night are one-third more likely to get into an accident compared with teen drivers who have slept for 8 or more hours nightly.
It is important to lead by example. Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices. If your child owns a cell phone, encourage them to charge it in a different room from where they sleep. This way your teen will not be distracted by tweets and texts.
Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from their room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.
Does your teen have a lot of homework? Encourage him to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way they avoid exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer or television during the time right before bed.
To learn more, check out our 10th grade physical health guide page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Natasha Burgert, Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates and Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.