Going through periods of feeling very stressed is a fact of life for teenagers. They may experience negative thoughts or feelings about themselves, have problems with other kids at school, be dealing with the separation of parents, the death of a loved one, chronic illness in the family, family financial issues and/or pressure to perform academically.
There are some skills which parents and carers can use to help teens navigate these troubled waters. Chief among those are practising empathy and ensuring that your relationship with your child is rooted in respect and connection. They might not say it often, but you really are their bedrock.
You can also be supporting your teen by helping them implement dietary and lifestyle approaches to ensure their journey is a little easier. Here are 10 tips for giving your teen the best shot at being balanced, productive and happy.
Eat breakfast. A good one
Ensure there is protein at this time of the day to stabilise blood sugars and help with concentration and focus required at school. Use:
Eggs and avocado
Protein powder containing smoothies
Nut butters used liberally on whole grain toast with some fruit also works a treat
Reach out for protein containing snacks
Yet another consideration for balancing blood sugars, mood and energy levels. Think:
Homemade bliss balls, smoothies with good quality protein powder
Raw nuts with fruit
Good quality yoghurt with fruit
Have tasty yet healthy food ready to go
Make healthy food easy and accessible. Rather than reaching into the pantry for packaged processed foods have healthy options in the fridge that just need a re-heat. Double batch cooked chili con carne, curries, pastas, nacho mix in big tubs in the fridge work a treat. All your teen has to do is scoop, heat and eat.
They are already revved and don’t need the excessive stimulation of caffeine. Caffeine, or too much of it, can leave teens feeling agitated, anxious and on edge.
Make the bedroom a relaxing haven
Phillips hue lights in bedrooms to help with getting the light right in the evening. This next tip is easier said than done: keep their room as tidy as is reasonable. If you can convince your teen to organise and declutter their space then you are doing well. By doing so they are also decluttering and organising their mind and setting themselves up for a good sleep.
Teenager’s body clocks are a little different to most other people. They experience a sleep phase delay meaning they feel more alert in the evening. This doesn’t make getting them up and out the door for school any easier. Using a dawn simulator can be help though. It helps with regulating their circadian rhythms.
If you have a teen who has trouble falling asleep take a look at the Brainwave app. It helps with getting brain wave activity into the right mode for sleep time. Brainwave is also useful when your teenager needs to be in a focused, study mode or a relaxing, unwinding mode.
The aim of the game is to keep screens out of the bedroom at night to help with sleep quality. If you can’t do that then install the f.lux on all devices to change the blue light to a warmer light that helps with increasing melatonin production to help your teen get sleepy.
Keep them moving.
Exercise can be in the form of walking the dog regularly, swim squad, gym classes or routine, youtube yoga or personal training videos, running, a team sport, an individual sport … anything really.
Encouraging your child to get involved in sport at a young age and then keeping it up as they reach high school could be one of the best things you can do for their health.
If they don’t play a sport help them find what interests them and give it a go. By encouraging your teenager to do some form of exercise also helps to reduce the amount of time they spend on their screens, encourages them to engage more with others, increase oxygen to the brain, release feel-good endorphins and has an overall anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Exercising outside or in natural light in the morning is a fantastic way to get the body’s circadian rhythms in sync. The pineal gland registers the day and night cues to help with ensuring your teen sleeps well.
Not all teens are going to be up for this but you can give it a go. Suggesting the use of meditation apps such as Calm, 1 Giant Mind and Headspace may appeal to your teenager as it’s another thing they get to use their phone for.
Time for connection
Your teen’s social world is important. Encourage them to make time for doing things with friends in real time and not via a device. Time with family is also important. You may seem like the last people your teen wants to hang with but rituals like family dinner, movie night on a Sunday night all of those things can be comforting for your teen even if they don’t tell you so.