Parenting teens is no simple task, as any parent of a teenager will tell you. The teenage years are especially difficult because teens undergo developmental changes during these years. Hormonal changes coupled with the stress of school, friends, and possibly romantic relationships and after-school jobs or extra-curricular activities, makes for a worrisome few years for parents and a frustrating time for teens. These tips will help you raise healthy teens and gain some peace of mind.
Encourage Participation in Sports
With teenagers spending more time in front of the screen (TV, smartphones, tablets) than ever before, they’re not getting as much physical activity. Encourage – but don’t force – participation in sports, even if your teen isn’t athletic. There are many sports to choose from, so many teens can find an activity that they enjoy. Participation in organized sports develops their ability to work as part of a team, and games and practices mean that they’ll spend less time on their mobile devices.
Talk About Drugs and Alcohol
Talking with your teen about drugs and alcohol might be an uncomfortable conversation (and probably one they’re not looking forward to), but it could save their lives. According to Aha! Parenting, kids whose parents talk to them about the risks of drugs and alcohol are half as likely to use them.
Be Generous with Praise
It’s easy to get in the habit of expecting your children, particularly once they reach their teenage years, to know and follow the rules. With this expectation, parents may overlook the importance of positive praise. Be descriptive, and don’t be afraid to praise your teen even in front of their friends or other family members. Letting your teen know when you’re proud of her helps to develop her self-esteem and self-image.
Encourage Healthy Sleep, Eating, and Exercise Habits
Making family meals a priority and serving healthy, balanced meals is one way to encourage healthy eating habits in your teens. Plus, as Sentinel Source points out, “Teens who have dinner with their parents on a regular basis are 33 percent less likely to smoke and drink.” Meal time is the perfect time to practice active listening to get your teen to open up about problems or pressures he’s facing at school and build trust. In addition to healthy eating and exercise, try to encourage your teenagers to go to bed at a regular time to get enough sleep.
Teach Instead of Criticizing
The teenage years are a time for making mistakes. Teens are testing the boundaries of their independence, yet they still rely on you for support and (whether or not they admit it) advice. When your teenager does something wrong, use it as a teachable moment instead of criticizing. This approach cultivates a trusting relationship, allowing your teen to feel more comfortable talking with you about difficult issues. Offer options and discuss what choices would have been better choices in these situations to help your teen learn problem-solving skills.
Pay Attention to Mental Health
With all the hormonal changes your teen is going through, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of depression. Ensure your child knows you’re always there to listen, no matter the topic. If he or she seems to be struggling despite your best efforts, discuss going to therapy or even adopting a service dog. Sometimes it’s easier for teens to go to a source outside the family for support, and it’s important that they know you understand that.
Most importantly, remember that the teenage years are equally challenging for your child as they are for you as a parent. Both of you are going through emotional changes during this time, so conflicts are inevitable. Instilling positive values in your kids is vitally important during the teen years, as well as encouraging healthy habits such as exercise, diet, and quality sleep. Raising healthy teens is, in many ways, built on a foundation of a trusting, healthy relationship between parent and child.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.