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As a wellness coach, many of my patients tend to be troubled teenagers whose parents bring them to me because they are concerned about the health of their high-achieving, yet sleep and nutrition deprived children.

Parents usually justify their children’s behaviour by saying, “Times have changed and studies are just so tough now” and proudly proclaim that their children are among the select few to have obtained admission in the country’s top-tier educational institutes. Their pride, I have come to realise, has more to do with the fact that they can boast about their children’s educational achievement in front of their friends, and less to do with the educational benefits they believe their children will receive. What they fail to notice is the unnecessary stress that they put on their children.

Case in point: Ahmed, a 21-year-old BBA student came to me suffering from severe palpitations, complaining: “I haven’t been able to study, sleep or eat and have this splitting headache all the time. If I fail my exams my parents will ground me for life!”

I told him that he was having panic attacks. “Popping pills will only make matters worse. The solution is to cut down on your screen time, caffeine and soda intake, and instead of sedatives, have warm milk and honey or marjoram tea in the late evening, and you will sleep like a baby.”

For others, the problems are more complicated, particularly when it relates to body image issues.

Zaria, a law student, visited me for a weight-loss consultation, and complained that “I have been starving myself, but instead of losing weight, I have had severe hair loss! How will I ever be pretty and popular?” I explained, “Hair loss is due to lack of protein. What you need to is exercise regularly, eat green vegetables, and if you are a meat lover, have some grilled fish. Then only the pounds will drop off, not your hair!”

Teens need to realise that getting good grades does not guarantee success or happiness. As for parents, instead of throwing your children on a ‘make-us-proud’ rollercoaster, help them be comfortable in their own skins.

– Saba Gul Hasan                                                                                                         The writer is a nutritionist and wellness coach.

First published in the HEALTH ADVERTISER Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 24, 2014.