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obesity chart.jpgAlmost one-third of Canadian teens are overweight or obese, with more reaching an unhealthy weight each year.


Faced with the short and long-term health consequences of this trend, governments and health agencies around the world are working to find the best approaches to getting our young people healthy.


Public Health Ontario's 2012 report, Addressing Obesity in Children and Youth: Evidence to Guide Action for Ontario, offers some key insights into what works and what doesn't.


The report summarizes the findings from 40 reviews of intervention strategies from around the world and reveals the key components of the most effective approaches to combating unhealthy weight.


We've pulled ten of these components from the report for parents who are facing this issue in their home. For more detail, read the full report.


Top Ten Intervention Strategies for Obesity


Interventions were more likely to be effective if they:


  1. Targeted both physical activity and healthy eating;
  2. Involved parents;
  3. Were designed to be culturally sensitive;
  4. Had effective staff training and sustainability;
  5. Used participatory activities and training in behaviour techniques (e.g., self-monitoring) or coping skills;
  6. Were done in collaboration with community programs or facilities;
  7. Increased sessions of physical activity throughout the school week;
  8. Modified the food environment of schools to improve nutritional quality of school foods;
  9. Were set within environments and cultures that supported healthy eating and physical activity, and when they combined education with modifications to the school environment;
  10. Were longer in duration rather than short term.

high_school_transition_460x260.jpgGrade 9 is a big year for most teens. It means more independence, harder academics and the potential for a social life that can steer them astray.


The first weeks of Grade 9 can be very scary and confusing, and teens that are laden with anxiety can often seem grumpy or even brutish to their parents.


These tips can help you wade through the seething hormones and insecurities and help your child through this big transition.


Dealing with the emotions: What to do when anxiety is a real problem?


Sometimes kids get so anxious, they won’t even go to school or they refuse to get out of bed. These actions can lead to many yelling matches in the morning between rushed parents and their teens.


sad_teen_200x300.jpgChristie Hayos is a clinical social worker at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. She offers these coping strategies:


  • Establish your role. Before school starts, sit down with your child and ask what role he or she wants you to play. “Every child is different,” says Hayos. “Some kids want their parents close while others do not.” Respect that boundary.

  • Don’t engage in a battle. Step back and don’t get too entangled in a fight. Instead, empathize with your child and listen.

  • Name the problem. If your child doesn’t want to go to school, sit down with him or her and get to the root of the problem. That doesn't mean your child gets to stay home, but sometimes teens will hold things back and hide behind attitude. If you know the real issue, you can make a plan.

  • Work with your child to put a plan in place. Work with your child as a team. “Often kids have really great ideas about how they could get support,” says Hayos. Children like to feel that they are actively a part of, and have some kind of control over, the future. “When they know the plan, when they are part of it, they are likely to feel more successful and to buy into the plan,” says Hayos.
  • Chunk the day down. If your child doesn’t want to go to school because the anxiety is too much, explain that as a parent, it is your job to keep your child safe but it is also your job to make sure he or she goes to school. So break the day down into manageable chunks. Get your child to call you after the first period for reassurance, then lunch, then in the afternoon if still needed. But if the anxiety is not getting better, reach out to the school.

  • Work with the teacher. The teacher works with your child on a daily basis and probably has experienced similar issues with other children. The teacher will often have very helpful ideas to rectify the situation.

  • Get help elsewhere. If none of the above works, contact your family doctor.


What to Expect in the classroom: Problems and Solutions



  • Organization. Kids and parents struggle with organization once students get to Grade 9. Grade 9 kids have between 4 and 8 teachers during the year. Kids struggle to keep track of assessment schedules, homework, practices, and social obligations. Parents often are left out of the loop as their children begin to try to organize these things on their own.

  • Expectation Management. Kids struggle to find a balance between teacher expectations and their own expectations of themselves. This can be difficult as some teens put too much pressure on themselves, while others do not. The first few weeks of class are often spent reconciling these gaps so that everyone is aware of school and classroom expectations.

  • Time Management. Often teens - and let's face it, adults too - do the work they enjoy the most, and put off the work they are less interested in completing.  This leads to issues in skill development that is critical in math and language classes, as these subjects build skills and concepts continuously through the year.

  • Being too busy. Transition years are often difficult because many students try to reinvent themselves and choose new friends, new clubs, new teams or new everything. This can be exhausting for students and some may pull away from their studies.  Being too busy adds a lot of stress into a person’s day and being stressed has negative effects on learning.



What can you do to help?

high_school_teacher_200x300.jpgGoslin offers these suggestions:


  • Be interested. Always ask your kids what they are doing in school. Goslin says, "I often ask my daughter how her day was and she gives me the typical response fine to good. Then I ask more specific questions about her day and I get a much richer response that often includes some academic and emotional highs and lows of her day."

  • Know your stuff. This doesn't mean become a chemist or a mathematician, just know where you can access information. Find out if the teacher runs a website, has a twitter feed, or sends "homework reminders" via text programs. This information is usually on a course outline in the first few days of the semester. This helps you to know when your child has homework, how much there is, and if your child really could have gotten it done in the last ten minutes of class.

  • Know who is who. Know who your child’s teachers are and how to contact them. Communication is key in your child’s education and it goes both ways. If you have concerns call and talk to the teacher. A five minute conversation early on can prevent miscommunications from occurring later on in the semester.

  • Expect homework.  In secondary school students will have homework. This will come in many forms depending on the subject and the teacher's style. Each class will have different amounts of homework and every student completes work at different rates but try to know what it is and how much there is.  This will help in managing time between school and home life.

  • Help to create a study space. Many students need a space at home to study their notes, review concepts, and sometimes practice or work on extension problems. This space needs to be quiet and free from distractions or interruptions. Some students like to listen to music and others need to hear a pin drop.

Health Tips for Teens

Posted by teachontarioteam Mar 25, 2015

teen_exercise.jpgLike their parents, North American teens have become too sedentary. According to Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, teens should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, but most are not.


The 2014 Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth by Active Healthy Kids Canada gave our kids a D minus for overall physical activity. It found that:

  • Only 4% of kids ages 12-17 are meeting guidelines.
  • Inactivity significantly worsens as children grow older, and teenagers, especially teen girls, are less active now than they ever have been.
  • Kids aged 12-17 spend 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.


What are the Consequences?


  • According to the New England Journal of Medicine, kids who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing heart disease as adults-- even if they lose the weight in adulthood.

  • Teens are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes-- a disease linked to obesity and previously only found in middle-aged adults. Type 2 diabetes can cause heart disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and sexual dysfunction.

  • Kids who are obese are at greater risk of developing arthritis at a very young age. Due to too little milk, sunshine and exercise kids are developing diseases like osteoporosis and even rickets- a disease rampant in the 19th century.

  • Kids who are overweight are prone to depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems and body image issues.

  • Because of the growing incidence of obesity in kids, the children in each successive generation could be sicker than their parents.


According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, being active for at least 60 minutes daily can help teens:


    • Improve their health
    • Do better in school
    • Improve their fitness
    • Grow stronger
    • Have fun playing with friends
    • Feel happier
    • Maintain a healthy body weight
    • Improve their self-confidence
    • Learn new skills


What Can Parents Do?


In their book, The Overweight Child: Promoting Fitness and Self Esteem, authors Teresa Pitman and Miriam Kaufman offer some strategies to encourage your kids to get up and go:



  • Start with yourself. Kids who are active are happier and healthier. But getting the kids off the couch can be hard, especially if their parents are sitting right beside them.

  • Take it slow. Nobody likes change, so don't suddenly force your kids to eat rice cakes and sprouts. Make gradual changes in your diet by cooking your own meals together and limiting fast food runs. You are in charge of the food in the house, so if you don't buy it, they can't eat it - and neither can you.

  • When they say: "I want to watch my show"......Try: "Television is off-limits to all of us." Set a good example and watch less TV yourself. The kids may even follow your lead. Instead of everyone flopping on the couch after dinner, go outside.

  • When they say: "I'm too tired"......Tell them: "Exercise and eating well can boost your energy." Children who don't eat a proper diet and get enough exercise have lower energy levels. Set a good example by giving your family a well-balanced diet that includes the four basic food groups. Avoid fatty, sugary, processed foods that add empty calories.

Active Healthy Kids Canada recommends more ways to get them moving:



  • Do not drive them. Only 24% of Canadian teens walk or bike to school.

  • Put away your wallet and get outside with them. 79% of parents support their kids’ physical activity financially (e.g., through fees, equipment), but only 37% of parents say they often played active games with their children in the past year. Kids of more active parents participate in more sport and unstructured play after school than kids of less active parents.

teens_467x310.jpgBelow is a brief summary of some key milestones for youth aged 15-17 outlined in the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Service’s Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development.


It's important to note that while these milestones represent what is common for kids in this age group, a child's development is also affected by individual factors. Some kids will reach milestones at an early age, while others may need more time to develop, and some may not reach that milestone at all.


Visit the Ministry’s website to read the resource in its entirety.


Cognitive Development:
  • Dramatic changes in the brain continue;
  • Brain function becomes increasingly efficient and specialized;
  • The amount of grey matter (neurons or brain cells) continues to decrease as neurons are eliminated in a ‘use it or lose it’ process;
  • The amount of white matter continues to (myelin and axons) increase;
  • These changes result in an increasing ability to process complex information and learn new concepts;
  • The prefrontal cortex continues its slow maturation process, expanding ‘executive functions’ such as the ability to monitor, organize, plan, make decisions, anticipate consequence and control impulses and gratification (this development depends to a large degree on life experiences);
  • Processing speed (how quickly new information is absorbed) increases until around age 15-16.


Emotional Development:
  • Those in later adolescence feel emotions more intensely, are more sensitive to pleasure and reward and are particularly vulnerable to stress;
  • Can be more likely to participate in risky behaviour;
  • The capacity for self-regulation and for decision making continues to lag behind the ability to feel emotions;
  • True empathy for other people begins to form but will not be fully developed until adulthood;
  • The internalization of motivations (moving from wanting to get benefit and avoid rewards towards doing things out of interest or desire) continues to develop.


Social Development:
  • A sense of self-identity continues to develop (may include many components, including gender identity, social group identity, and spiritual identity);
  • Self-concepts become more differentiated across different contexts (may be deferential with parents but a leader among friends and shy in class) and conflicts in self conception begin to emerge (possibly resulting in anxiety about who they really are);
  • Around ages 15-16, adolescents begin to become more certain of their ability to achieve goals again, after a continued decline since the start of puberty;
  • Self-esteem begins to decrease in early adolescence (particularly among girls) and often continues to decline into adulthood at which point it rises again on an upward trend into old age;
  • Teens (particularly those from minority groups) continue to show an increase in social group-esteem (show increasing pride in belonging to their social group) which continues into adulthood;
  • Romantic relationships begin to emerge, however, they are usually not based on emotional intimacy but rather fun and camaraderie; sexual behaviour may progress;
  • Relationships with parents may suffer as teens choose to spend more time with their friends and find themselves more often in conflict with their parents; this peaks in mid-adolescence (15-16) and usually declines afterward.


Physical Development:
  • Changes in cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility continue, all depending largely on their levels of physical activity; in general physical activity continues to decline into adulthood;
  • Sleep pattern disruption continues, often causes young people to feel wide awake and alert until late at night and have difficulty getting up in the morning, often resulting in sleep deprivation;
  • These changes to body and mind have significant impact on how young people feel about the appearance of their body (females, whose body mass tends to increase during puberty, may develop negative body image, affecting mood, eating habits and mental well-being; males, on the other hand, put on muscle mass, start to develop a masculine shape and generally become more satisfied with their physical appearance);
  • Caloric intake, especially around a growth spurt, can skyrocket. The body’s need for protein and calcium to build muscle and bones also increase.