Children and teenagers experience a significant amount of change, coupled by a host of learning opportunities, as they grow. These developing years are crucial for establishing healthy habits that they can carry on throughout their adult life.
Encouraging your teen to adopt healthy habits can be a tricky endeavor. While there are more obvious facets to healthy living, such as physical well-being, supporting them as they learn to establish healthy relationships and manage their mental health is also extremely important. These elements, after all, are all very interconnected. For example, sometimes inexplicable aches or pains might be a symptom of a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. Alternatively, if we don’t eat well or get enough sleep, we might find ourselves feeling down or more stressed than usual. Therefore, as you explore how to encourage healthy living in your teen, consider a well-rounded and all-inclusive approach. Here are some of the ways you can help your teen to adopt healthy habits.
1. Healthy Eating
Helping your teen build healthy eating habits is an important skill that they will carry throughout the rest of their life. Our diets interact with our moods in more significant ways than we may realize, so it’s important to eat nutrient-rich foods and avoid ones that are overly processed or high in sugar as they can cause crashes in our insulin levels, leading to irritability and fatigue.
Of course, it’s also important to ensure that your children eat enough as well. Up to 30 million people in America live with an eating disorder, so teaching your children the importance of proper nutrition will allow them to develop a healthy relationship with food and with their self-image.
2. Healthy Sleep Patterns
Getting an appropriate amount of sleep is also an important element of your child’s wellness. For teens, according to the National Sleep Foundation, this means eight to 10 hours per night. Sleepiness can slow down thought processes, impair judgement, decrease memory, inhibit reaction times and even lower your mood. In fact, those with chronic sleep issues or sleepiness are at greater risk for depression. Therefore, be sure that your children get an appropriate amount of sleep each night and set regular sleep routines. If they have chronic sleep issues, seek the assistance of a medical professional.
3. Healthy Exercise
Ensuring that we get regular exercise is important for all of us. Not only does it improve our physical health, but the release of endorphins and blood flow to the brain benefits our mental health as well. Encourage your children to participate in active extracurriculars and try engaging in physical activities as a family. Ensure that your children find a fitness activity that they enjoy so that exercise is fun, not a chore.
Mental and Emotional Wellness
4. Self-care Strategies
Teaching your children the importance of self-care is another way that you can encourage long-term, healthy living. The foundation of building positive self-care strategies is establishing good boundaries. Teach your children the importance of saying “no” when necessary, not taking on the emotions of others and the benefits of rest. All of these will be helpful tools they can use to better cope when they experience stress.
5. Communication Strategies
Having strong communications skills is another important facet of healthy living. By being able to share openly and listen to others, your children will have stronger relationships with those they encounter whether it’s at school, work, in the family or in a romantic relationship. Encourage sharing in your family and set a good example by communicating constructively with your partner. Use “I feel” statements to share emotions rather than accusations and work together as a team to resolve conflict when possible.
6. Self-esteem Strategies
It’s true that we are often our harshest critics. So how can you encourage your children to quiet the often condemning voice in their heads and promote self-esteem instead? First of all, help them learn to take risks and try new things. This can be scary for your child, but as long as you are there to support them no matter the outcome, their confidence will be boosted. Failure shouldn’t always be seen as negative, instead it can be perceived as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Furthermore, be sure to give your children opportunities to take responsibility and be leaders—even if it’s as simple as asking them to plan a family meal. By giving them the chance to make choices on their own they will feel like they have more control and pride in the things they accomplish.
7. Strategies for Seeking Help
Finally, it’s extremely important to teach your children that it’s okay—and healthy—to ask for help when they need it. No matter the situation, your children don’t need to feel alone. Admitting that they need help can be intimidating and they may fear associated stigma, but teaching them that it’s actually beneficial can help them alleviate long term problems or get the professional support they need.
Healthy living consists of these several interconnected elements. Through teaching your children positive ways to manage their physical, emotional and mental wellness, you will set them up for a future of health success.