The world is a wonderful place for teens, full of options and possibilities. Unfortunately, many of these exciting opportunities may not always lead to the most healthful choices. Body image and eating disorders, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and drug use are just some of the issues that teens must contend with today, and without guidance they may fall victim to one these concerns themselves. However, with a little direction, teens can be encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle and radiate a healthy attitude.
Discuss “Healthy Lifestyles” With Your Teen
Teenagers are young adults, but they are still young enough to need guidance. Take the time to talk with your teen about what you consider a healthy lifestyle. Don’t assume that your teenager is learning about healthy decisions anywhere else, or that they automatically know your feelings on the subject. Topics to consider include:
- The health implications of smoking and tobacco use.
- The health and legal ramifications of drug use.
- Acceptable attitudes towards alcohol.
- Safer sex and abstinence issues.
- Proper nutrition and exercise routines.
- Sleep patterns and needed amounts of sleep.
Model a Healthy Lifestyle and Attitude for Your Teen
After discussing your thoughts on a healthy lifestyle with your teen, don’t fall into the “do as I say, not as I do” trap. Model what you consider an appropriate lifestyle and/or attitude and your teen will have a shining example.
- Do not use drugs.
- Smoke in moderation, outside, or not at all.
- Drink in moderation and never binge drink in front of your teen.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Drink eight glasses of water per day.
- Exercise daily.
- Get six to eight hours of sleep every night.
Food is Fuel
The very basis of any healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet. Without necessary nutrients, health will fail. For teens, especially girls, food can often be linked to eating disorders and body image problems. Remind your teen constantly that food is fuel for their body, and that no food is inherently “good” or “bad.”
- Discuss nutritional guidelines with your teen.
- Discuss eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
- Encourage teens to read food and drink labels to familiarise themselves with nutrients.
- Discourage faddy or obsessive food behaviour, including consistent trips to the scales.
- If your teen shows signs of eating or body image disorders, consider getting them professional help before their physical health deteriorates.
The Body is a Blessing
Perhaps the most important part of a healthy lifestyle is a healthy body. Healthy attitudes can not flourish if the body is looked at as shameful or simply decorative. Instead, cultivate the attitude that the body is a blessing and engage in activities that will show your teens how phenomenal the body really is.
- Spend quality time walking or jogging with your child, and marvel at the body’s ability to move.
- Engage in your child’s favourite sport with them and run, jump, throw and catch!
- Consider exploring a new physical activity such as surfing or sailing. Talk with your teen about the wonderful way in which the body adapts to each new activity.
- Use physical activities as a time to discuss proper safety with your child, such as the importance of wearing a helmet when biking or of wearing a gum shield during field hockey.
- Most of all, have fun and enjoy your activities together!