Adolescence is a period of change, transition and many new experiences. It can be a challenging time for both parents and teens. From building self-esteem by helping your teen feel and look their best to encouraging them to care for their mental health, we have 5 ways you can support your teen through adolescence.
Identifying Periods of Transition and Change
Most parents can remember the trials and tribulations of adolescence all too well. It’s a time of physical, emotional and social change, and it can be tough to navigate for both kids and adults. That’s why it’s so important to identify periods of transition and change in your child’s life.
Though all kids will go through adolescence differently, there are some typical milestones that most will experience. For example, pubertal changes like body odor and hair growth are a normal part of this stage of life. Your child may also pull away from you emotionally and become more independent.
It’s important to remember that your child is still growing and learning, physically and emotionally, so don’t be too hard on them if they make some mistakes. The rational part of their brains literally won’t be fully developed until their mid-twenties. So the most important thing you can do as a parent is to provide support and understanding during the transition.
Let’s take a look at how you can do that.
1) Model Healthy Behaviors
The best thing you can do for your child during adolescence is model healthy behaviors. After all, they’re more likely to imitate your behavior than listen to what you say. If you want your teen to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and drinking, you need to do those things yourself.
It’s also important to model emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Teach your teen how to cope with stress in a healthy way, express their feelings without anger or violence and resolve conflicts peacefully. If you don’t have these skills or know-how yourself, it may be time to develop them through therapy, counseling or self-help books and articles.
2) Listen to Them
Genuinely listening to someone is something that doesn’t happen very much for any of us these days. We’re so used to being on our phones, laptops and other devices that we don’t really take the time to just sit and listen to someone else. This is especially true when it comes to our kids.
Adolescence can be a confusing and overwhelming time for your child. They may not always know how to express their feelings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to talk about them. So, make sure you create opportunities for them to speak to you. For example, ask open-ended questions about their day, friends, hobbies, etc.
And then just listen. Don’t offer advice or try to fix their problems. Just let them know that you’re there for them and support them no matter what.
3) Encourage Them to Be Physically Active
Physical activity is essential for everyone, but it’s especially crucial during adolescence. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting and stress-relieving effects. It can also help your teen cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
So, encourage your teen to find an activity that they enjoy and make sure they get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. This can be anything from playing a sport to going for a run to taking an exercise class. Help them find hobbies that involve movement like biking or indoor rock climbing. The important thing is that they’re moving their bodies and getting their heart rate up.
And a side note — if they try something and decide it’s not for them, don’t be too harsh about it. It’s not the end of the day if they choose to quit the soccer team. Just encourage them to find something else that they might enjoy.
4) Help Them Develop Good Sleep & Eating Habits
Most teens need around 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night, but many don’t get nearly that much. This can be due to several factors, including homework, extracurricular activities, social media, etc.
If your teen is constantly tired, it can lead to moodiness, irritability and even depression. It can also make it harder for them to concentrate in school and make good decisions. So, it’s vital to help them develop healthy sleep habits.
This means helping them decide on and set a regular bedtime for themselves and encouraging them to stick to it as much as possible. It may also mean banning screens from the bedroom (including phones, laptops, TVs, etc.) after certain times of the day. And, finally, it means creating a relaxing environment in their room that promotes sleep (think: dim lighting, comfortable sheets, etc.).
In addition to getting enough sleep, it’s also crucial for your teen to eat healthy foods. A nutritious diet can help them maintain a healthy weight, have more energy and concentrate better in school. So, make sure they eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. And try to limit their intake of sugary drinks and junk food.
5) Help Them Develop Good Coping Skills
As we mentioned before, adolescence can be a confusing and overwhelming time for your teen. They’re dealing with hormonal changes, social pressures, academic demands and more. So, they must develop good coping skills to help them deal with all of this stress.
There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is to encourage them to find a hobby or activity that they’re passionate about. This can be anything from playing an instrument to painting to writing. It’s something that they can turn to when they’re feeling stressed, anxious or down.
In addition to finding a passion, you can also help your teen develop coping skills by teaching them how to engage in self-care that celebrates their body and unique identity. This can include things like taking care of their skin, hair and nails in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. You can help encourage this by treating them to items like cuticle treatment cream or investing in a skincare routine set for a special occasion like their birthday or a holiday.
Finally, and to bring us full circle, it’s important to model good coping skills yourself. If you’re constantly stressed out and snapping at people, your teen will think that’s normal behavior. So, take some time for yourself, find healthy ways to deal with stress and be there for your teen when they need you.
You’re In This Together
It’s not easy being a teenager, and it’s definitely not easy being the parent of a teenager, but neither of you are alone. You have all the support and resources you need to get through this time in your lives. So, take a deep breath, be patient and remember that you’re in this together.