Your teen picks up habits from all areas of their life – whether they are healthy habits or unhealthy ones. From school, to extracurriculars, home and friends, your teen is constantly learning from the world around them. By providing them with guidance and intentionally seeking out ways that your teen can develop positive habits, your teen will benefit in the long-term as they grow older. Here’s how you can help.
1. Lead By Example
The first and possibly most important way you can encourage healthy habits in your teen is by leading by example and demonstrating these healthy habits yourself. Do you want your teen to eat healthy? Make healthy meals. Do you want your teen to be active? Invite them on a run. Do you want your teen to make wise choices and think things through thoughtfully? Be sure to do these things yourself. Don’t forget that your teen picks up on your actions more than you may realize so it’s important to be a positive role model as best as you can.
2. Encourage Open & Honest Communication
Cultivating open and honest communication with your teen is another great way that you can help them to develop healthy habits. Open communication encourages your teen to ask questions, be confident and share how they feel—all of which will enable to make wise decisions in their life. It will also help them to know how to deal with conflict in a constructive way. Start by building this openness in the home and within the family so that they learn to take these practices to other areas of their life.
3. Find a Mentor
As parents, it’s natural to want to be your child’s most significant mentor and source of guidance. But especially as your teen grows up, they will want to seek some independence and will look to others for support. Encouraging your teen to have a mentor—someone older, besides you, who they look up to, confide in and take suggestions from—can help them develop healthy habits even as they become more independent. Mentors can include teachers, coaches, pastors, a next door neighbor or a friend’s parent. Just be sure that it’s someone who is positively influencing your teen and helping them be the best they can be.
4. Discuss What You See
Direct relationships with people aren’t the only influences in your teen’s life. In fact, media (the internet, TV, movies, magazines, music, books) can all influence your teen significantly. Therefore, developing a habit where you and your teen discuss what they see can help them process these influences and develop healthy perspectives towards them. For example, if there is a big fight in a movie you just watched together, take some time to talk about that moment with your teen. In other words, even if they observe things that aren’t necessarily positive influences, you can encourage your teen to develop their own thoughts and ideas about these situations.
5. Promote Healthy Extracurriculars
Encouraging your teen to participate in healthy extracurriculars is also an excellent way to support them as they build healthy habits. Physical activities like sports or dance are great ways to encourage active lifestyles, for example. Volunteering for a cause that they are passionate about encourages your teen to give to others and be involved. There are positive activities your teen can be involved in that promote positive habits.
6. Welcome Positive Friendships
While you may not be able to choose who your teen hangs out with, encouraging their positive friendships can help them understand and recognize examples of healthy relationships. In addition you can help support your teen during times of conflict with their friends, teaching them how to work through difficult situations rather than simply abandoning them. Finally, be willing to open your home up to these positive friendships, creating a safe and welcoming space for them to strengthen their relationships. At the end of the day, remember to encourage and support your teen in the healthy habits they are already cultivating as they learn and grow.
Feature Image: Minnesota National Guard