As a parent, you’re always thinking about your kids’ health. From an early age, you’ve taught them all about what foods are best to eat, and you’ve spent so many evenings after work cooking dinners that are healthy and you know they’ll enjoy. You’ve always emphasized the importance of physical fitness, and when they were younger, you went to the park every weekend so they could run around. But now that your kids are getting older, it can be hard to implement healthy choices in their lives. For one thing, they’re more independent now, so there’s not much you can do if they only think they choose to consume is sugar-filled frappuccinos. And for another thing, there’s a lot of stress in a teenager’s life.
But just because it’s a challenge for them to stay healthy doesn’t mean you can’t help them. It’s all about striking the perfect balance between educating them and making them feel like you’re listening to their reasons for their choices. So if you want to keep your busy teens healthy, here’s how.
1 Support them emotionally
One of the biggest health challenges teens face is stress. Whether they’re stressed about piano auditions for their dream conservatory or getting a date with the girl of their dreams, you have to remember that challenges like these are incredibly overwhelming to teens. They feel like the world is on their shoulders, which means they might engage in stress-induced unhealthy activities, such as video game addiction or overeating. And depression also looms, which can be hard for them to handle if they don’t understand what’s going on emotionally.
The most important thing for you to do is listen, without judgment, to what’s going on. According to Psychology Today, “Validating your child conveys deep empathy. This will help build your child's self-esteem and reduce his or her defiant behavior, which is often the language choice of children who do not feel understood.” 1.8 million youths experienced severe depression in 2017, which is a scary number. In addition to listening to your kids, be aware of the signs of clinical depression so that you can get professional help if necessary.
2 Encourage social media detoxes
Another important part of emotional health for teens is being able to step away from their phones. Which may seem almost impossible, but it’s hugely important, considering that the average American consumer is spending five hours a day on their phone. We aren’t encouraging complete confiscation of phones--that’s disrespectful, and will alienate your teen from you in a time when they likely already feel a bit alienated--but you can still find creative ways to encourage a social media detox.
For example, you can have phones-free dinners once a week, which means not only your teens are doing it, but you are also stepping away from Facebook (and work calls, too). On weekends, you can plan family trips that are so much fun your kids won’t even be able to look at their phones. If you’re kayaking in rapids, for example, no one’s going to pull out their phone because of the risk of losing it in the water. To learn more about detox strategies, check out this article.
3 Eat and exercise together
When it comes to socializing together, your teen probably isn’t going to want to be seen with you very often. Certainly not in front of friends. But deep down, they want to spend time with you. What you need to do is find something that’s in it for them. Meal times are a great example; if you and your teen cook and eat a meal together, then they get something out of it. (Awesome food that they could never dream of cooking themselves.) So at least that lunch or dinner, you know they’re eating healthy.
The same goes for exercise. Find something fun that you both love, like rock climbing in the mountains nearby or doing some yoga at home. If you set a good example, your kids will eventually follow it. According to the World Health Organization, 23 percent of adults are not as active as they should be, and if that’s you, it’s time to step up your game (pun intended). And if your teen is on a sports team, then you won’t have to cut out a chunk of time to exercise with them--but you should support them, and show up to as many games as you can.
By following these strategies, your teens will be healthy, no matter how busy they are. If you’re able to teach them the importance of physical and emotional health, you can also teach them about financial health, like saving up for college with the echecks they get from their part-time job.
How do you teach your teens to be healthy? What are your greatest challenges?