By Patrick Bailey
Growing adolescent brains are experiencing tremendous changes as they reach adulthood. Teenagers are learning countless life lessons during that time, including how to take the best care of themselves as they grow and mature.
Learning healthy habits is not always the fun or exciting part of growing up, but we can impart values of wellness to help their teens grow into healthy and happy adults.
Young adults who learn how to treat themselves well solidify thought processes (and may avoid damaging habits) that contributes to success as adults.
When teenagers develop ways of seeing the world and processing new information early, they are more likely to make informed choices and avoid dangerous situations.
Help your teens build their sense of judgment by making healthy living a natural part of their lifestyles.
Teaching teens to eat healthy early in life gives them the discipline to nourish themselves and protect their brains and body from malnourishment. Healthy brain development requires essential vitamins and minerals to fully form tissues and neural pathways. Young adults are less likely to show symptoms of mental illness or struggle with depression if they are receiving optimal nutrition.
Healthy eating also protects teens and young adults from habits that may cause long-term consequences such as heart problems or cancer. Teaching your teens healthy eating habits will reward them with wellness routines they can adapt well into adulthood.
Encourage your teens to:
- Shop and prepare whole plant-based foods when possible
- Educate themselves on vitamins and minerals
- Cook new recipes at home
- Make informed choices when they go out to eat
- Avoid processed or junk food
- Eat to provide the body with energy instead of psychologically relying on food for comfort
Developing a healthy fitness routine is an essential step for optimal mental health in young adults. Lack of energy, activity, and sleep can lead to mental health challenges and increase physical stress levels in young adults. Teaching young people how to build a fitness routine, and build a routine that they love, is a skill they will use to take care of themselves for life.
Fitness may also provide a protective mechanism for mental health. Regular exercise allows people to release endorphins and helps your teenagers to find a healthy outlet for stress. Teenagers may face a great deal of emotional and academic challenges as they grow, so provide them with tools they need to recharge, stay fit, and protect their mental and physical health.
Urge your teenagers to:
- Walk or run outside daily
- Take new fitness classes
- Play a sport or participate in activities that they love
- Practice yoga or stretching regularly
- Lift weights or practice strength training
The way your teenagers approach their mental health at a young age is a big indicator of their self-care in the future. By educating them early about the symptoms of mental illness or other challenges, they will feel confident noticing their own patterns and struggles. Teach them about the recovery process for mental health issues and share resources on treatment for alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and other common challenges.
By being transparent about mental health issues (including any of your own mental health issues), you remove the stigma associated with such struggles and allow your teenager the ability to ask for help if he or she needs it. Teaching your teens how to assess their own mental health, ask for support, and find local resources empower teenagers to take control and protect their own mental health.
Share resources such as:
- Local support groups for common issues
- Organizations that promote activism for mental health
- Licensed psychologists and psychiatrists
- Treatment centres and hospital resources
How your teenagers view relationships can affect their mental health and interpersonal communication for life. Teaching them life lessons and sharing resources about relationships will help them learn from your knowledge and provide examples of what healthy relationships look like. Relationships have a unique role in shaping adolescent brains since they greatly impact confidence levels and can even cause trauma if things go wrong.
By teaching your teenager to practice positive self-esteem and habits to protect themselves, you are strengthening those thought processes and helping ensure that they last for life. It is also essential to educate young adults about the dangers of emotional and physical abuse in relationships, as these traumas can lead to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other conditions.
Help your teens practice healthy relationships by:
- Answering questions openly and transparently if they are curious
- Enrolling them in classes to learn information
- Setting an example of love and respect for others
- Encouraging them to practice self-love and self-awareness
Building healthy support systems can do wonders for the psyche of young adults. It takes a village to promote the healthiest development for teenagers, and yours should be fully aware of community resources and their ability to ask for help. Isolation and other damaging social anxieties can enforce unhealthy thinking patterns that impact their development.
Interpersonal issues can prevent young people from taking basic care of themselves and fearing normal activities such as school or sports. Whether it is through encouraging teens to contact an anonymous mental health helpline or creating a community of support, you can educate your adolescents on how to build support systems that they use in the future.
Ideas on how to build your teens’ support system include:
- Establishing clubs and groups supporting common mental health causes
- Finding professional resources such as helplines and treatments
- Visiting support groups
- Participating in community activism or events
- Practicing group fitness or health-related activities
Mindfulness is one of the most powerful ways to promote your teenagers’ healthiest brain development. The more children practice mindfulness, the more they strengthen their thought patterns and neural pathways during peak brain development stages. This includes responses to stress, self-esteem, confidence, and logical thinking.
Another benefit of mindfulness is that it is a mental health practice that reminds your teen to take a step back and find positive sides to situations that would normally create stress for them. By learning how to meditate and practice gratitude, your teen will be less likely to cope with stressors in unhealthy ways.
Instruct your teenagers how to build awareness by:
- Journaling their emotions
- Reminding them to be mindful during everyday tasks
- Using meditation and the right religious approaches
- Practicing gratitude
Learning how to set (and reach) goals is another component of healthy brain development in young adults. Teens may feel overwhelmed and anxious if they do not know their goals or how to reach them. Teaching your teenagers goal-setting allows them to set SMART goals for different aspects of their lives. SMART goals are goals that are
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Attainable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time-bound
Such lessons may help teens set health and wellness goals to take the best care of themselves. For example, people may incorporate healthy goal-setting into their mental health treatments to create a healthy recovery. Ambition and goal management skills are powerful tools to support growing young minds as they tackle real-world problems.
Teach your teens to:
- Ask for help when they are overwhelmed
- Set priorities and manage their time
- Say no to less important things until they fulfil their major obligations
Preparing your teenagers for healthy brain development includes challenging them to build strong thought patterns in each important area of life. When young adults learn how to take the best care possible of themselves, they promote healthy thought patterns and are more likely to seek help when they need it.
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer in the field of mental health, addiction and living in recovery. Today, find a teenager you can help develop a healthy lifestyle, and tag us on IG or Twitter @BLACKSAFAYA and Patrick on Twitter @Pat_Bailey80