Your family might be the football fanatics who never miss a season without the annual pilgrimage to Arrowhead Stadium. Or, you may have been raised by globe-trotters you only slightly resented as you started another school year in a different country. Perhaps your parents were entrepreneurs who tasked you with greeting customers at the family’s corner café.
No matter how you were raised, there are valuable, lifelong lessons you picked up along the way. And as a parent, you want to give your teen the whole ocean of knowledge contained in your brain. The only problem is, you’re working with a one-gallon bucket and can only give so much at a time.
Some of the greatest lessons you can teach your teenager are habits to support their physical, mental, and emotional health—like eating the right foods, learning to enjoy physical activity, and talking through life’s challenges with people they trust. You can’t shelter them from every hard-knock lesson you’ve ever learned, but you can give them tools they can use to succeed each day.
6 Tips to Keep Your Teen Healthy
1. Stock the Fridge with Whole Foods
Phase-out processed drinks and snacks and swap them for low glycemic treats and plenty of whole fruits and veggies. “Fruit” snacks and other common processed foods found across grocery aisles are deceptively unhealthy, thanks in large part to all the added sugar. And if your 16-year-old is a bit sporadic when it comes to meals, turn to teen multivitamins to shore up dietary misses.*
2. Light Up Their Passions
High school sports take a commitment from both parent and teen—early mornings, late nights, heartbreaking games, and potentially not making the cut. But sports, after-school clubs, and other hobbies pay dividends by keeping your teen physically, mentally, and socially engaged. They also teach them how to respectfully handle wins and losses. Encourage activities that pique your kids’ interest, whether it’s rock climbing, chess, dance, or Dungeons & Dragons. And spark new passions by brainstorming some creative ways to get them moving—volunteering to mow a neighbor’s lawn or visiting a local pool.
3. Make Time to Move
Show your kids the importance of exercise by inviting them into your daily workout. Watch the sunrise together on an early-morning run or bike ride. Spend time in the gym alternating sets. Simple, easy exercises are great ways to connect. Sure, they may grumble about joining you for a “quick” run around the block, but the time will come when they cherish these moments and may even thank you for creating lifelong, healthy habits.
4. Talk to Them
We’re more connected than ever, yet many teens feel disconnected in a world where they’re measured by “likes,” friend lists, and followers. Set reasonable, but firm, expectations around technology. More importantly, let your kids know you’re always there for them. Give them plenty of opportunities to talk, and be open to share experiences you had growing up—just another bucket of knowledge from that ocean of experience.
Don’t force family time—it can backfire as often as it sparks productive conversation. Instead, create activities and moments for genuine connections. Even watching one of their favorite movies together can help them feel comfortable enough to open up.
5. Let Them Catch Enough Zzz’s
Quality sleep is essential for everyone, especially teens going through those radical, formative years. Help them create schedules to get eight to ten hours of sleep every night, even on weekends (as much as possible, anyway—good luck). Most kids have a limited attention span as it is, and a lack of sleep can negatively affect their attentiveness and mood.
On the other hand, getting enough sleep supports whole-body health, including the immune system and muscle recovery. School starts too early, homework takes too long, and first jobs are stressful. Sleep preps young minds for another busy tomorrow.
6. The Kids Are Alright
Teenagers can be a lot to handle at times, but at the end of the day, you want the best for them. Take time to pass on the great habits you inherited from your family. By helping your teen know the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle, they’ll be primed to absorb the life lessons you give them—one bucket at a time.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.