DHAKA, June 20, 2021 (BSS) – Mahi Abrar, 14, is a picky eater and doesn’t like any healthy food like
milk, egg, fish or meat at all. Like most adolescents, he is very fond of junk foods and soft drinks, making
his mother worried about his health.
“Compared to children of his age, Mahi’s stature is short and he is also very inattentive in study. Doctor
said these were probably caused by his food habits and told me to change this as there is still time and
hope,” Rabeya Khatun, mother of Mahi, said.
According to the experts, children do need extra physical and mental care in their adolescence for their
proper growth. More than one fifth of the country’s population, 34 million, are adolescents.
As per the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey-2014, the nutrition and health condition of
adolescent girls between 15-19 years in both urban and rural areas are concerning. In urban areas, 39.9
% girls are stunted, while the number in rural girls is 34.5%, the rate of anaemia is 40% and 36% in girls
of urban and rural areas respectively.
Principal Nutrition officer and Head of Nutrition Department of BIRDEM General Hospital, Shamsun
Naher Mohua said generally the girls reach their adult height by age of 16, while the boys grow till 17.
After that, their physical growth stops. They need to take an adequate amount of calories for their growth in adolescence.
“It is very important for them to have food enriched with protein, vitamin-B, vitamin-12, iron and minerals for their good intelligence quotient (IQ) and memory. They need carbohydrate for strength and must take calcium enriched food for strong bone structure,” she said.
At this age, the children get to know many new things. They change a lot based on their experience and
observation. Parents need to accept these changes positively and learn how to help the children copewith the surroundings. Psychiatrists emphasize on giving priority to the mental growth of adolescents.Parents need to talk with their children and learn about their comfort and discomfort.
In many cases, children in this age fall victim to different type of violence, so the parents need to help
them to overcome their ordeal.
Former professor of Armed Forces Medical College and Hospital Brigadier General (retd) Dr Azizul Islam
said children at this age develop their individuality, morality.
“They tend to listen to their peers. So the parents must be very alert so that the children cannot make any mistakes. They must be taught the right and wrong. If the bonding with their parents is strong, the children will listen to them, or else, they will disobey. But parents must not get angry with them, they have to make them understand with love and compassion,” Prof Azizul Islam added.
He also emphasized on the contribution of school in this regard, saying, the teachers in the school teach
them about morality, ideals and values.
“Children would grow benevolence in them if they are regularly kept busy in extracurricular activities like singing, dancing and playing. These would leave an important mark in their proper growth. Society and the state do have responsibilities in this regard. It is needed to control the unlimited use of cyber world for this,” Brigadier General (retd) Dr Azizul Islam further said.
Unicef Nutrition Specialist Dr Ireen Akhter Chowdhury said in many cases children suffer from malnutrition as they do not eat or don’t have access to proper nutritious foods. They also might suffer from depression for this, she added.
“The adolescent girls must be taught about their menstrual cycle, hygiene and how to take care of
themselves during the time. Many families do not want to give them protein enriched food at this time,
whereas protein is very much needed. Or else they would suffer from anaemia,” she said.
Dr Ireen further said the schools need to have separate toilets for the girls and do need to provide the
girls in need with sanitary napkins. She said UNICEF is working jointly with the government in this regard.
Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said children of 10-14 went through changes the most and
on many occasions behave like the elders.
“But they don’t understand the right and wrong and go haywire. So they need to be taught good attitudes. They need to be properly guided and monitored. Parents need to give importance regarding children’s happiness and entertainment, as well. Parents need to give them good books, show them good movies, take them for occasional outings and encourage them for new things,” he said.