Teenage years are meant to be endured, not necessarily enjoyed. Here are a few tips to help your teen establish healthy lifestyle choices that'll last them well into adulthood.
I really don't miss being a teenager. Not even a little bit. I do, however, feel pretty bad for the teens of today whose lives are dominated by social media, cyber bullies, and a far worse body image than previous generations. As a 90's kid and an 00's teen, there were no smartphones, Instagram influencers, or facial filters. We were just kids running around barefoot outside, using a VCR to record television shows, and waiting ever-so-patiently for your sister to GET OFF THE PHONE in order to use the internet.
Behold, an angel choir of nostalgia for Millennials.
Kids these days may have it so easy, in terms of digital innovations at their fingertips, but with this ease comes the sacrifice of mental and physical well-being. It's even been reported by the American Psychological Association that mental disorders in young adults have been increasing over the last decade.
It has to be said that the rise of social media and dependence on electronic devices has made the teenage population less physically social and less aware of their own well-being.
For parents who are worried about helping their teens navigate these confusing and frustrating years, there are ways you can help them take on good habits now that will benefit them for years to come.
Educate on Healthy Eating and Exercise
When you have gym class five days a week plus an after-school sport, it's easy for teens to keep moving, although not all school programs offer these luxuries. If you feel that your teen may not be getting enough exercise, go out with them! A game of tennis, swim class or jogging through the neighborhood weekly will suffice and gives you the chance to bond during these difficult years.
As for eating habits, when I was growing up, the Food Pyramid was treated as gospel, now it's all about lean meats and green vegetables. While consuming fast food and pizza is always a go-to for a teenage palate, focusing on healthy food choices and keeping sweets to a minimum while also staying active will keep them at a healthy body weight.
Encourage Positive Body Image
This one is a touchy subject, but needs to be discussed. With facial filters, airbrushing, Photoshop, and Facetune completely warping bodies and faces to make youths think that this is how a person is supposed to look, they wind up getting a skewed sense of reality. One trip to the community pool is proof that all bodies sport cellulite, stretch marks, moles, scars, and other signs of life that make us all just plain normal – and normal is beautiful.
Send Them to Summer Camp
Take your teen out of their element and away from their usual day-to-day for a few weeks out of their summer break and send them to camp. Part of being a teen is trying on new personas and cultivating an identity. There's no better place than summer camp to go explore a different side of themselves!
Limit Screen Time
Unless they're paying for their phone and the WiFi bill, you have control over their screen time. Keep the phones and tablets out of bedrooms and far away from the dinner table. Even better, go on a phone-free day trip somewhere fun to introduce your kid to what life was life before iPhones ever existed.
Push for 9 to 9-1/2 Hours of Sleep
Their bodies (and brains!) are working hard to grow into adulthood, as such, they need to replenish their energy. A good night's sleep cuts down on moodiness, boosts school and sports performance, and improves behavior.
Talk About the Realities of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drug Use
Being forced to read Reviving Ophelia scared me straight when it came to avoiding drugs and alcohol and, thanks to vanity, I avoided cigarettes. While cigarettes nowadays are declining in favor of vaping, e-cigarettes still pose a negative effect on teenage brain development. Alcohol and drugs also hamper healthy brain growth and it goes without saying that abuse of either of these substances can destroy their futures. Be open, be realistic.