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Every parent wants the best for their teen: good grades, strong friendships, and a promising future. Giving your teenager the best also means giving them the tools to be healthy and make good decisions. From the foods you stock in the pantry to how to talk about drugs and alcohol, your parenting is the most important factor in your child’s well-being, both today and into the future.
If your teenager could use a boost in the new year, Homeschool Teen offers some great tips for parents who want to promote a healthy lifestyle in their teenager.
According to the CDC, teenagers should get one hour of exercise every day.
Exercise is important for your teen’s physical and mental development. Too little physical activity can cause teenagers to become overweight, develop behavioral problems, or struggle in school. As a parent, you can encourage physical activity in the coming year by helping your teen schedule time for being active, provide support for physical activities they enjoy and encourage them to pursue a sport. You can also look for ways to be active as a family, whether it’s bike rides, yoga sessions or nature hikes, staying active together helps set a foundation for regular physical activity.
As a parent, you guide your teenager’s dietary choices with the food you buy and the example you set. That means if you eat a healthy, varied diet, your kids will too.
In the new year, commit to cooking homemade meals based around vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, and be sure to focus on variety. Make a point to offer plenty of healthy snack choices like turkey jerky, apples with nut butter, popcorn or hard boiled eggs.
Picky teens might be wary of new ingredients at first, but by including your teenager in meal planning and shopping, this can help them expand their horizons. Instead of forcing your teen to try different foods they’re not interested in, offer the option, be patient, adjust your expectations and keep the lines of communication open.
Promoting dental hygiene is a big challenge for many parents. Once teens old enough to brush and floss on their own, it’s hard to know how good of a job they’re doing.
If your teen still needs reminders, instead of simply instructing them to brush their teeth, explain the importance of good oral health, and make a pact for you both to focus on your oral health in the new year. Discuss how brushing and flossing remove plaque, the sticky bacteria that food leaves behind on teeth, and how that keeps smiles healthy and prevents cavities and bad breath. Parents should also take their teens to the dentist every six months for preventive care and make it a positive experience. Teens can still see a pediatric dentist; if you need to find a dentist, you can use an online locator.
In this modern age, it’s inevitable that your teen spends more time in front of screens, whether it’s a TV, tablet, or smartphone. And while this has become the norm, it’s still important to set limits and expectations. Just like too little activity, too much screen time can adversely affect your teen’s health. To keep their screen usage in the healthy zone in the new year, make it a privilege that comes with strings attached, implement clear rules about when your teen can and can’t use their phone, and be sure to practice what you preach. Remember, even if you think your teen isn’t paying attention to you, they are. If you make good decisions, your teens will tend to follow your example.
One of the scariest milestones a parent anticipates is when their teenager starts driving. To help your child learn the rules of the road, model that behavior, even if you’ve got a few years before they get behind the wheel. If your teen is already in permit mode, sign them up for driver’s education classes and set clear and specific rules for when they borrow the car. In addition to the safety aspects of driving, teach your teen the importance of car maintenance and the overall costs associated with driving, which includes gas and insurance. Impart to your teen that if they’re unable to keep up with the financial responsibility of driving, they may have to wait a few more years.
As children get older, they may be exposed to drugs and alcohol. Talking about substance use beforehand gives teens the knowledge they need to resist peer pressure and make healthy choices for themselves. Commit to having these discussions with your teen regularly in the new year.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to tell kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Teens want to understand why drinking and using drugs are bad decisions. Talk about the long-term consequences of substance abuse and the social and academic impacts of drug and alcohol use. Parents should also listen to what teens have to say about peer pressure and come up with strategies to abstain from drugs and alcohol while maintaining a healthy social life.
Teens might not always make the choices that parents hope they will. And even if your teen is fairly mature, they still need encouragement to make healthy decisions. By talking to your teen, supplying the right tools, and setting a good example, you can ensure your teen has a healthy foundation for making good decisions now and into adulthood.