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Health & Exercise Forum

5 Tips for Addressing Concerns with Adolescents: Part 3 of 3 on Adolescent Medicine

Jan 20, 2014
Cara Lyle

Cara Lyle

The 2013 Commonwealth Medical College Healthcare Journalism Award: Congratulations to Cara A. Lyle, as the recipient of the 2013 TCMC Healthcare Journalism Award by Dr. Paul Mackarey! The award recognizes Cara’s excellence and dedication as a medical student and healthcare journalist.

Cara A. Lyle is a 4th year medical student and a member of the second class at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She was born in Pittsburgh, PA and raised in Ford City, PA.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry at The University of Pittsburgh.  She is currently applying for a residency in General Surgery.  She enjoys spending time with her family, art and art history, traveling and staying active by working-out, going for walks or playing sports.  Writing has also been a special interest of hers throughout her education and she is excited to continue to pursue this interest while in medical school.

Part 1 of Adolescent Medicine provided a better appreciation for the field of adolescent medicine, while Part 2 provided the warning signs of depression and risks for one of the leading causes of death in the adolescent population. Today, Part 3 will present tips for addressing concerns with adolescents.

Dr. Deborah Spring, MD, a family practice physician who is board certified in adolescent medicine contributed to this column.  Dr. Spring’s interest in adolescent medicine developed while she was in group practice.  As the only female in the group she saw many women, adolescents and children.  Around the same time sub-specialties in family medicine were being formed, Dr. Spring sat for the adolescent exam in order to keep her skills current.

Under the tutelage of Dr. Spring, along with the guidance from Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, MD contributor in Part 2, we have formulated five tips for addressing concerns with adolescents.  The following tips are intended to assist in the parenting of the adolescent in your life.

1. Get Educated

These articles are a great place to start, but don’t stop here. Beyond depression adolescents may face many other challenges including social isolation, bullying, eating disorders, substance use and/or abuse, risky behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases and more.  Dr. Spring recommends the following educational online resources:

  • The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine at
  • Adolescent Health at
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at

2. Establish Trust

Dr. Spring emphasizes “the most important aspect of caring for adolescents is to ensure a relationship of mutual trust and respect.”  She believes that this is really the focus of adolescent care and as such she feels that most family physicians and pediatricians are very capable of caring for adolescents.  If either physician or adolescent are not comfortable with the relationship a change is warranted and then perhaps a physician with more expertise in adolescent medicine would be a better fit.

3. Create Open Lines of Communication

Creating open lines of communication is an important aspect of communicating with teens.  Dr. Thomas-Hemak states “transparency is really important.”  She goes on, “parents really need to understand being non-judgemental and not think that allowing free flowing communication condones behaviors you don’t approve of.”  Maintaining open communication while parenting can be a tough balance to strike.  It is important that your teens know they can come to you in need, and yet parents should not try to be one of their friends.  “Supervision is so important…you need to know what they’re doing,” says Thomas.

For adolescents who seem isolated be persistent.  Reach out and continue to attempt to build a relationship.  Dr. Spring acknowledges that depression is not uncommon and that “the “quiet” adolescent can be the most vulnerable.”

4. Take Advantage of  Teachable Moments

“Don’t assume they’re knowledgeable on topics such as STDs, sexuality, relationships, mental health, etc. and  give them information even if they pretend to “know” or pretend to be ignoring you,” says Dr. Spring.

One way to approach difficult topics is to take advantage of teachable moments recommends Dr. Thomas-Hemak.  A visit to the pediatrician for a check-up or immunizations provides a great opportunity to discuss and establish healthy thinking and lifestyles.  For a difficult topic such as sexuality, a visit for the HPV vaccination could provide a great opportunity for you or the physician to discuss this often challenging topic.

5. Make Use of Local Resources

If you have identified a problem with a teen in your life there is a variety of NEPA resources available.  In addition to your teen’s physician, Dr. Spring and Dr. Thomas offer these suggestions for local resources:

  • The Advocacy Alliance:
    • 846 Jefferson Avenue, Scranton, PA 18501.
    • 877.315.6855
  • Community Counseling Services: 
    • 110 South Pennsylvania Avenue,  Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701. 570.552.6000
    • 99 Bridge Street, Tunkhannock, PA 18657. 570.836.3118
  • Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, specializing in development of children with special needs age five or younger:
    • 1133 Wyoming Avenue, Forty Fort, PA 18704
    • 570.714.1246
  • Planned Parenthood:
    • 316 Penn Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503
    • 570.344.2626
  • HelpLine of Northeastern Pennsylvania, an after-hours crisis service serving Bradford, Luzerne, Sullivan, Tioga and Wyoming counties:
    • 888.829.1341
    • 570.829.1341

For More Information About this topic:

Pediatric Research: <>.



Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, MD: President/CEO of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education and The Wright Center Medical Group, P.C.  She is dually board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She leads The Wright Center for Primary Care Mid Valley Practice; a level 3 NCQA designated Patient-Centered Medical Home.

Deborah Spring, MD: is board certified in Family Practice with board certification in the sub-specialties of Adolescent Medicine and Geriatric Medicine.  She practices in Kingston, Pa.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum in the Scranton Times-Tribune every Monday.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.