A big part of adolescence is developing an identity and building positive self-esteem. The tween and teen years aren’t typically easy, but the digital age can certainly complicate them.
And parenting a teen or tween in today’s “always on” world can be just as challenging.
With mounting academic and social pressures, today’s young people can feel expected to be accessible all hours of the day and night. The constant connection to technology and social media raises important concerns about adolescents’ brain health, mental health, and wellbeing.
As parents, clinicians, and educators, we need to model self-care and rest for adolescents, so they can develop a positive sense of self and wellbeing, and create meaningful relationships.
ENCOURAGE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
When parenting a teen or tween, the first step toward helping them get in touch with who they really are is to introduce self-care. Essentially, self-care means caring for your needs by making yourself a priority each day.
Some common self-care strategies for young people are carving out alone time, meditation, exercise, low key time with a friend, getting plenty of rest, and making time for creative expression. We’ll cover a few of these in depth below.
MAKE SURE THEY GET ENOUGH REST
The second step is to introduce rest to adolescents. Rest means giving our minds a break and doing less. Nataly Kogan of VeryWellMind points out, “There is increasing scientific evidence that supports the benefits of rest, particularly the ways in which doing less can help us become more creative and productive.”
Through the practice of self care and rest, adolescents can begin to take the necessary steps to discover themselves. Parenting a teen involves teaching adolescents these valuable skills will also help them be resilient when they are faced with life challenges.
KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
Facilitate a conversation with young people about what self-care means to them. Encourage them to ask themselves these questions:
What makes me happy?
What is missing in my life that I used to enjoy?
Who do I have meaningful relationships with in my life?
What are my needs and wants?
What brings me joy?
Once adolescents decide what they want and need more in their lives, this self-awareness can assist them to develop a plan of action for creating a self-care and rest practice. After creating a plan, help them schedule this downtime.
It’s important for adolescents to check in with themselves on a daily basis. It allows them to evaluate how their plan is working. A key question to consider: How is the time I’m making for myself impacting my thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships?
Help the young person in your life continue to explore their interests and support them in finding outlets to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a positive way. A self-care practice gives them a tool to develop positive coping skills and permission to work through stressful situations in their life.
When parenting a teen, begin teaching your child mindfulness and self-monitoring. The basic mindfulness meditation practice involves focusing awareness on the breath and noticing thoughts as they arise. The goal is to focus on the moment-to-moment experience without judging or reacting (Stixrud & Johnson, 2018).
Ask Your Child:
What is stressful for you?
Where do you begin to feel stress in your body during these moments?
How does this stress impact your thoughts, feelings, and actions?
Once they become mindful of their body’s reaction to a stressful moment, they can learn mindfulness techniques to become present through tools such as deep breathing, nonjudgmentally observing thoughts, and positive self talk to regain control rather than the situation controlling them.
Ways to Encourage Self-Care
Gratitude is an excellent self-care practice to teach adolescents to stay in the present. Despite a stressful situation, writing a list of things to be grateful for in the present moment can help adolescents build positive coping skills.
Encourage your child or student to get involved in yoga. It is excellent for calming the mind and strengthening the body. Yoga can help her get in touch both her inner and outer strengths.
A meditation practice is another effective tool to help adolescents engage in self care and rest. Emily Fletcher makes a valuable point about the benefit of a meditation practice, “It will help calm the nervous system from past stressors and experience deep rest for the body and mind.”
Through a meditation practice, adolescents learn to cope with stress, get in touch with themselves, tap into creativity, and gain clarity.
Fletcher, E. (2019). Stress Less, Accomplish More, Meditation for Extraordinary Performance. New York: William Morrow, Harper Collins.
Kogan, N. (2018). Happier Now. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Stixrud, W. & Johnson, N. (2018). The Self Driven Child. New York: Penguin Random House.
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