Being a teenager has never been easy. There you are, so close to adulthood and yet so far away. You are old enough to have some concept of what is going on both within yourself and the world around you, but you also don’t have the experience or wisdom to help navigate that world with consistency.
At the same time, teens in this day and age have the added difficulties of modern life, which allows us immediate access to information and influences via a wide range of mobile devices. And yet that access can easily dominate our lives and provide negative influences if not utilized with awareness and moderation.
In short being a teenager these days is uniquely difficult. But the good news is that the issues they face are essentially the same as in years past – it is simply now that they are filtered through the technology boom. And if you take an active role in helping shape their lives, you can still instill healthy habits that will set your teenager on the path to success – no matter the situations they may face.
Let’s be honest, it is daunting to see the reports of what technology is doing to teens – including an increase in mental disorders and decrease in physical well-being and fitness, thanks to an increased reliance on electronic devices – but as parents and mentors, we can positively influence our teens and help guide them through a difficult time in their lives.
The key is a consistent approach based on several factors, including physical, mental and social factors. And you do not have to do so forcefully. Teens often respond to parenting styles differently, but the find the style that produces results and try to stick with it.
In the end, kids – even teens – crave affirmation from authority figures. The difference with teens is that they are also now seeking responsibility and trying out their own decision-making processes. Follow these guidelines, however, and you help equip the for successful teenage years.
Healthy eating and exercise
This is something that you should promote at all ages, as it sets a pattern for life. And your teenager will likely need reminding about the needs for both, as they begin to earn more unsupervised time – time that can easily be filled by eating junk food and being sedentary. Consistent exercise will not only help keep them physically fit, but also help clear their minds and allow them to focus better. This doesn’t mean they need to be the star of their high school sports teams, in fact, it could be as simple as taking the dog for a daily walk or doing yoga. You can also plan hikes or bike rides as a family to help get multiple positives from the experience. Meanwhile, you can teach them how to cook and help you cook family meals to give them both a grounding in proper nutrition and cooking, as well as giving them added responsibility. They will even begin to make their own snacks and meals based on the lessons learned during family meal preparation.
Oral health should always remain paramount, so be sure to not your let your teen slip in caring for their teeth. But, as your teen begins to establish new sleep patterns (you remember what it was like, when you all of a sudden wanted to sleep until noon or later), ensure that they are not just hanging around all day without bathing. It’s easy to get a bit lazy in this respect but avoiding bathing and washing will lead to acne breakouts, body odor or worse.
Plenty of sleep – at least 9 hours
Remember the sleeping to noon thing? Well sometimes there’s a reason for that. Adults only need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but teens need 9-10 hours in order to help their bodies fully process all the changes that they are undergoing. Get less on a consistent basis and you will see noticeable differences in attitude and school performance.
Limit time with devices
We really could have put this under any of the three tabs, as this certainly encompasses the mental aspect of life, as well as socializing, but it also includes the physical side in that it’s a proven fact that our devices are addictive. And the more time you spend staring at your phone or tablet, the more you will want to utilize your phone or tablet. And this will lead to decreased physical activity, allowing your teen to shut out the world and any thought of exercise. So, try to set some parameters for device usage, or at least mark off time for physical activity each day.
Make clear the consequences of tobacco, alcohol and drugs
This goes under the physical side simply because of what the use of these substances will do to the teen body (or any age, really). And abstinence is always the smartest and healthiest course of action. However, be aware that your teen is likely to face pressure to take part in at least one of these vices – if not being directly pressured then simply by being with others that are experimenting. It is a delicate tight rope to walk in how you approach this subject. But whether you forbid your teen to use these or not, you should – no matter your stance – make clear the possibilities of what could happen through use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. You might be surprised how grown up your teen will be if you hold an open and honest conversation with them about the risks involved – including physical damage, addiction, and legal troubles.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” face or body
Since the advent of mass marketing and advertising teens have been bombarded with the “perfect look.” But, thanks to social media and its filters completely changing the way you look, we are faced with body images as never before. And it is easy to get a warped sense of what look a teen should strive for. You can combat this by pointing out the realities of life. No one is perfect – no matter the face they present to the world online. Remind them that we each have something beautiful to present to the world, and we do not need filters to make it so.
As a parent, act consciously
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. True, your teen is unlikely to look at you and say, “I want to be just like mom/dad,” (as they did in their elementary school years) but what they are likely to see is a path to success – or something to avoid. This does not mean you have to be something you are not but think about your priorities and what they show to your teen. And while your teen may be becoming their own person, you are still who they most closely model their lives after (whether they know it or not). And parenting with a “do as I say, not as I do,” approach may well end up in disappointment.
Keep talking with your teen, no matter what
It may not be easy to talk with your teen. They can be moody, distant and downright rude at times. But that does not mean you should ever stop talking with them and let them retreat into themselves. Whether they know it or not, they still crave that relationship, and if they know that you are open to talking, they will likely make an effort. In the meantime, you should keep up your end of the dialogue.
Encourage your teen in the right relationships
Friendships and mentorships have meaningful and long-lasting impacts on a teen’s life, so if you see your teen striking up a give-and-take with a teacher, coach, boss or friend that genuinely encourages them and wants the best for them, promote that relationship. Teens can use all the positive reinforcement they can get (we all can, honestly), so nurture those opportunities.
Consider sending your teen to camps/workshops
There is nothing like getting out of your routine and comfort zone to make you grow as a person – and that is doubly true for a teen. And going to a setting where they are surrounded by their peers with safe parameters but perhaps some different guidelines can do wonders for their self-confidence, as they make new friends through shared experiences. Some of those friendships are the most positive they will make and can last lifetimes.
In the end, so much of your teen’s growth is also up to you. And we don’t say that to pressure you. We say that to encourage you. Be mindful of what’s best for yourself as well as what is best for them, and something positive is bound to follow.
That said, they are still teens, bound by the same wild swings of emotion and pressures that you once felt (remember those?). That is why it is important to be realistic about their growth as people and their overall behavior. You need to be realistic and not hold them to some unattainable template of perfection. They’re going to have bad days, but if you work to help them and be there for them, they’re also going to have plenty more good days.
At Rainbow Children’s Home, we have spent years shaping an approach designed to produce positive outcomes for young women. And one of the goals of Rainbow Children’s Home is to help young women understand how important health habits are in a more full, richer life. It is a worthwhile endeavor, one that will produce successful adults for the future.
The young women that Rainbow Children’s Home mentors, nurtures and allows to shine have faced difficult times in their young lives, but we see every day the resilience and spirit yearning to burst forth and capture their place in this world. It is our task to provide them with the safe and nurturing environment that allows them to take flight and discover their own path forward.
You can further the mission of Rainbow Children’s Home by donating today. To find out how to donate or engage in other ways, visit Rainbowchildrenshome.org.