Teach your teen to make better choices, and eliminate stress while doing it
Lindsay didn’t sit with me at lunch today. Will my boss understand I can’t work tonight because I have a major exam tomorrow? Must improve ACT score! Cory didn’t like my Instagram post last night. When is that college application deadline? Dad and mom were fighting again last night. How am I going to say no when they sneak beer into Alex’s party this weekend? I gotta fix that C in chemistry.
Our teen’s self-dialogue is a running list of the many things they have to worry about, so how can we help them make good choices? And, how can these choices reduce their stress? The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 25.1% of teens aged 13-18 are suffering from anxiety disorder. Is it any wonder? We live in a high demand culture where kids are pushed to be more, to do more, to do better; no, strike that, to do the best!
Here are some tips to get your teen making healthy choices for their mind and body.
TEACH THEM TO DE-ESCALATE
Every family has common triggers; whether it’s the battle over homework, the battle over screen time, or the battle over the soon to be condemned teen bedroom. It’s important to have de-escalation plans in place for each of the common triggers; in other words, how can I make less stress over the same burdensome issues. This requires some study and work on avoiding triggers, but let’s look at one of the more common flashpoints: too much screen time. In a thorough 2017 report on technology by the American Psychological Association, 72% of parents “somewhat or strongly agree” that they are a role model for their children when it comes to technology use. Ironically, though, in the same study nearly six in ten parents felt they were attached to their tablet or phone. Modeling the behavior we want to see in our teens will help prevent screen saturation. Take time outs with the family where you enjoy a television program or a game, without technology.
TEACH THEM HEALTHY EATING
Hectic schedules often mean we’re eating on the go, and this typically means unhealthy diets. A teen’s diet is directly linked to their brain’s ability to function, so it’s important to help your teen make good eating choices that will last a lifetime. Redfin suggests that healthy eating doesn’t need to be a diet or cleanse. Instead, try the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ tactic: “At the grocery store, purchase a select few snacks or junk food and be sure to keep these items at the back of the pantry.” By making small changes such as this, healthier eating will fall into place. Refer to the Family Fact Sheet from Georgetown University for more tips.
TEACH THEM TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
With the never ending dialogue, comes a never ending list of daily tasks to manage. We are often so overburdened with tasks, we forget to be self-aware which leads to more and more compounding stress. According to psychotherapist Padraig O’Morain, author of the book Mindfulness On The Go, “Our relentless focus on what’s next reduces our sense of satisfaction in things done, keeps our stress levels up and drags us out of the present and into an always demanding future.” He suggests that teens try:
- Using deep breathing exercises.
- “Mood surfing” – not acting on a bad mood, but waiting it out.
- Imagining our moods through peaceful imagery, such as clouds and music.
Scientific research supports the importance of mindfulness; a study reported in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, suggests that mindfulness may be an effective intervention for improving the emotional well-being of teens.
With suicide peaking at record high level in a 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s more important now than ever to help your teen make healthy lifestyle choices, both their mental and their physical health. Using these steps will put you on the right path.
Article By: Noah Smith