Here we go! High school is definitely the biggest adventure our teenagers have ever had.
However, it is also the time when they have the most opportunity to get in trouble that they have ever had. My son started high school this week and I am TERRIFIED!
Well, excited and terrified. Proud, excited and terrified. I know he’s going to be pushed to grow beyond anything he thinks is possible. Expected to perform academically and personally at the highest level. Held to the highest ethical standards. He will gain skills he will need to succeed as an adult. I wouldn’t want anything less for him!
I also know he will have much more opportunity to do unhealthy things. As parents our teens need us to continually encourage them to take better care of their bodies and minds.
There are 3 main things we can do to give our teens the best shot at staying healthy in high school and building good habits they can take into college and beyond.
Teens are teens, they are NOT adults. They still need 9 hours of sleep or more per night. I know it’s not cool but they really need a strong bedtime in order for them to have the energy and mind power to learn and perform at the highest level.
Sleep deprivation not only makes people tired and irritable but it interferes with learning and retaining new information. It slows reaction time (like when driving!) and interferes with good decision-making. And it suppresses the immune system and promotes weight gain.
The most neglected health measure in teenagers is sleep. There is no substitute for it, no pill you can take to replace it, and no single thing you can do to help your teen succeed than make sure they get enough sleep.
No one can perform without good fuel. It’s not realistic to expect that teenagers aren’t going to eat pizza, drink soda, and indulge in other junk foods especially when they’re out with their friends.
However, encouraging them to get their fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, nuts and seeds whenever possible is very important. Also making sure they take a good quality multivitamin is smart.
Teens have opportunities to get into all kinds of trouble in high school. Drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex. Studies have shown that they are much less likely to engage in risky behavior if they have strong social connections.
Whose opinion matters to your child? Who would they NOT want to explain themselves to if they wind up in trouble? It doesn’t have to just be you. Keeping them involved in church and youth group, a sport, a volunteer organization or a job that is very important to them gives you leverage to help them think twice before taking dangerous risks.
The old adage that “It takes a village to raise a child” is very true. You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. Engaging your teens with strong positive role models will help reinforce the messages you’re giving them at home about responsibility, safety and making good healthy choices.
Imagine you’re going to ride a roller coaster, the biggest and fastest one in the world. When that restraint bar comes down, you push at it, right? You don’t push at it hoping it will give way, do you? You push at it to make sure it’s secure, that it will hold you safe when the ride turns you upside down.
Please remember that you are your teens’ restraint system. They just climbed onto the biggest, fastest, most dangerous roller coaster they have ever ridden. When that ride turns THEM upside down by throwing new decisions and dangerous choices at them, they depend on you to hold them safe.
Pushing at your rules is teenagers’ way of testing the restraint. Don’t give. They depend on you to keep them safe, even when they act like that’s the last thing in the world they want.
QUESTION: Any words of wisdom for me as my baby climbs onto this roller coaster? What helped you help your teen negotiate the joys and perils of high school?