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Body Basics

As the girls you care for learn more about caring for themselves, bring up important health-related topics — and make sure to model the behaviors you want girls to copy. Here are some key steps:

  • Teach girls to stay fit and eat right. Don’t focus on thinness. Instead, talk about how exercise and nutrition can boost health and mood. Get tips for helping girls stay fit and eat healthy. Try a body mass index (BMI) tool that can help girls figure out if they may be overweight or underweight. Learn about the BodyWorks program, which helps parents and caregivers of teens 9 to 13 improve eating and activity habits.
  • Emphasize the importance of staying away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Learn ways to talk about these tough topics.
  • Help keep girls safe.
    • Car accidents are the number one killer of teens. Girls should buckle up. Tell them not to drink and drive, and not to ride with a drunk driver. Tell them not to drive when very tired and or when texting.
    • Make sure they use the right helmet and other protective gear when they participate in sports.
    • If you have a gun, keep it unloaded and locked up.
    • Teach girls how to swim and water safety tips.
  • If you are concerned about the costs of health care, you can get help. Check out to learn more about insurance options, government programs, and clinics that offer free care.

  • Make sure girls have regular doctor visits. Also check that they get the right vaccines.
  • Fight infections. Ask girls to learn about hand-washing and food safety. Have them read cautions about tattoos and piercings.
  • Encourage girls to get enough sleep. Most teens need a little more than nine hours of sleep each night. Share tips for better rest.
  • Snuff out smoking. If your teen smokes, help her quit. And don’t smoke around children (or, better yet — quit too!). 
  • Keep girls safe from lead in water, sun damage, and other environmental risks. And help them learn ways to protect themselves.     
  • Don’t let girls’ backpacks drag them down. Share some backpack do's and don’ts.
  • Listen to experts’ advice on hearing. Around 13 percent of kids and teens 6 to 19 years old have permanent hearing damage from too much noise. Remind girls to lower the volume on personal music players, and read information about hearing safety together. Ask your doctor about audiology testing if you’re concerned about possible hearing loss.
  • Watch for signs of problems, like sudden weight loss and trouble sleeping. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have concerns.
  • Know your family medical history. Talk with your daughter about family medical issues in age-appropriate ways. You can create a family health history. If you have babysitters, make sure they know key medical information, such as any medication allergies your child might have.


Content last reviewed January 11, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.