Parent: I have witnessed my 17 year old daughter lose weight for 6 months. She eats almost nothing and exercises for hours. Should I worry or not?
Virtual Doctor: If you are worried that the weight loss is continuous and remain concerned about the low amount of food being consumed it is important that you speak with your daughter as she may be experiencing a serious illness called “anorexia nervosa”. When a child is exhibiting symptoms of weight loss, obsession with not eating, and excessive exercise to look and feel good, early intervention is necessary before it becomes an established pattern of behaviour. There are teams of specialists in eating disorders who can support your daughter and you. This is usually a physician, a psychologist and a nutritionist. The treatment focuses on treating the anxiety and psychological issues relating to the illness, supporting the development of a proper diet and possible other medical interventions that may be required to tackle subsequent health issues caused by malnourishment. In extreme cases, patients are hospitalised until they reach a healthy weight and their life is no longer endangered.
Parent: At parties my 15 year old attends, they are serving alcohol. I am worried that she is drinking alcohol too. How do I stop this?
Virtual Doctor: Discuss your concerns with your child and explicitly mention your beliefs and views on alcohol and young people. If you believe that at this age drinking is wrong, you must express your concerns to her. There are strong reasons not to drink at such a young age. The damage that alcohol does to developing brains is scientifically well-known. Being under the influence of alcohol can put youth at risk and in dangerous situations. Discuss the issue with your husband and parents of your children’s friends. If your child comes home drunk, ensure clear consequences are enforced. Be firm and have a united front on this issue. Seek support from your child’s school and other parents. The influence of peer pressure on your child can be strong in social situations but we hope that you too can be firm. Some other parenting suggestions to consider are to wait for her to come home to assess her state when she returns from parties and drop her off at parties so you are aware of where she is going.
Adult supervision is necessary for adolescents. At this age they are more impulsive and may make decisions they will later regret.