Self Care for Every Age – Teenagers

Last week I talked about how kids need to practice self  care as much as adults. Today, I want to talk about those mini-adults we have living with us – our teenagers.

Teenagers are that in-between stage. Not quite adults, although they want to be treated as such. They can start working and driving, but still need to act like kids.

Teenagers have a lot of responsibility put on their shoulders. Now, before you get huffy at me and say that kids never had it so easy, let me explain.

Most teenagers plan to go to college. They know that without a college degree, they don’t stand a chance at getting a decent entry level job. This was especially true when I was growing up – everyone went to college, whether it was a 4 year university, community college or trade school. Temp agencies even ask if you have a college degree, or they want proof that you are going to college, before they start setting you up with a decent entry level job.

Now, some teenagers are smart. They start taking post secondary classes when they are juniors and seniors in high school to get some of those required core classes out of the way. But those classes are often harder (being at a college level) than your average high school classes. More homework, projects, etc.

Then you have your upper echelon students – the top 5% of the class who do nothing but honors classes and push their brains to the limit. I’m not saying that’s wrong. It takes a certain kind of person to push themselves in order to learn more and learn faster.

Regardless if your teenager is overachieving or your average teenager, they are striving for a good grade point average in order to get into their top school – whether it is self-imposed or parent-imposed. Most teenagers are also involved in an after school sport or activity to round out their student resume.

All of these things are a full-time+ job. Think about it. 6-7 classes a day plus homework. That’s more than we adults put into our work days if we work an 8 hour day.

THEN most students at the age of 15 or 16 get a job to get work experience and/or pocket money. And we parents demand that they pitch in around the house (I’m no different – my teenager helps me around the house). And their bodies are changing at an alarming rate (hello puberty!). Is it any wonder that they sleep in until noon or so on the weekends? The physical tax on their bodies from growth spurts and deregulated hormones is enough to send anyone to nap time or the loony bin.

Yes, teenagers have things we didn’t have as kids (smart phones, video games, streaming tv shows). When I was a kid and I was missing a tv show because of confirmation or another activity, I had to tape it with a VHS tape. Yes, I’m *that* old. But, they have responsibility, too. Now is the time to each our teenagers about self care, before they leave for college and have it just a little bit harder.

So what do you do?

1.  Let them sleep. Maybe not until noon, but until 10. If they don’t have to work early on the weekends. Their bodies are still growing and that is taxing. Their brains need a shut down just as much as ours do.  And the hormones need some downtime.

2. Instead of filling their free time with chores and activities, why not let them have an hour or two to be kids? Get some fresh air by roller blading or riding a bike. Let them play a video game with their friends. “Video games lead to obesity!” Oh, I’ve heard this. 60 minutes of play every day. Video games ruins their eyes and prevents REM cycle. Folks – moderation. I’m not saying to let them play every day. I certainly don’t allow my son to play video games all the time. I don’t allow them during the week. And he only plays on the weekends if his grades are good, homework is done and chores are done. I moderate his chores so he has some time to play. If you forbid video games entirely, your child is going to rebel and find a way to play them. Trust me.

Story time: My mom forbid online games when I was growing up. We had a Nintendo and a Sega Genesis in our house. We had no internet. Our computer was for school work only and whatever my mom needed it for. My brothers, being the gamer geeks that they were at that young age, found a way around it. They would hook the computer we had to the phone line and log onto zMud – one of the first multi-player platforms out there. And they would play whenever Mom was at work, instead of doing homework. Which is why they weren’t the best students. They had to sneak around in order to play their video games.

Video games aren’t going anywhere. Kids will always play them. Parents will always try to ban them.

Instead of banning them, allow their use in moderation. After homework. After chores. If your grades are above a set minimum. Teenagers need a reward system as much as younger kids. This is their self care.

3. Hanging with friends. Humans are social animals, even us introverts. Teenagers need to gossip and chill and be with people their own age. Throw a pizza party one weekend. The teenagers can eat, drink soda and watch movies while you and the rest of your family discreetly disappear to another part of the house. Teenagers always like pizza. Let him go to a friend’s house (providing parents are home).

4. Just let them chill. Sometimes a teenager needs to be away from everyone else in their down time. An hour or two makes a world of difference in your teenager’s attitude. Give them time to relax and read or watch funny/stupid YouTube videos or podcasts. Give them time to themselves.

Teenagers and parents have always butted heads. Arguments, fights, breakdowns, meltdowns – they’re all par for the course. Part of what leads to that is lack of self care. We have it in our minds that we always have to be doing something productive. We see overachievers around us and think we have to match them. No! We don’t. We have to live our lives the best we can. And if we don’t have the money or the time to do everything our neighbors do – don’t stress yourself or your children trying to do it. It is not good for you and it is not good for your kids, whatever their age.

Kids and teenagers do not always have to go 110% all the time. Let them learn the value of self care now so they can take care of themselves when they are older. You do not want your children to end up with chronic depression or anxiety and be in the hospital. Let them enjoy growing up.

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