Updated: Oct 5, 2021
October has arrived and as we get to enjoy autumn’s theatrical display of colour as trees blaze yellow, orange and red, evenings and mornings grow darker and a distinctive chill nips the air reminding us that winter is approaching. It’s a good time to take stock of health and wellbeing to make sure your teen is staying as fit as they could be and keeping their immune system ready to fend off the inevitable colds and sniffles as winter takes hold. Read on to find out our top five tips to turbo charge health or, if you’d like to know about other things you can do at home to help support your teen with their studies, check out The Parents’ Guide to Study and Revision GCSE and Sixth Form.
Mental and physical wellbeing are influenced by a number of factors so it’s good to strike a balance between all of them to maximise health. Focusing on one at the expense of another will mean your teen isn’t nurturing all the strands that feed into their overall fitness and sooner or later this will take its toll. Here’s five key areas that need attention every day:
When we eat well we fill our body with the nutrients it needs to fuel our activities and repair damaged cells. It helps give us the energy to do what needs to be done in the day, improves how we feel and helps us to sleep better. A healthy diet includes a balance of protein, carbohydrate, dairy, fat and at least five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables.
At this time of year your teen could be tempted to start reaching for comfort foods, such as high fat or sugary snacks. Help them to eat well by making sure the snacks on hand are healthy (fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, vegetables and natural dips) and fulfil their need for comfort food with soups and stews packed with beans, pulses and vegetables. Where possible, they should avoid eating too many processed foods.
With their bodies growing so rapidly during the teenage years, make sure your teen is eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. They should not be skipping meals. If they don’t like to eat breakfast before leaving the house, get them to take something nutritious with them to eat when they get to school or during first break.
2. RELAXATION AND SLEEP
Relaxing helps us to have a clearer and calmer mind. It’s important the mind switches off from its regular churn and buzz of activity. Meditation is a great way to relax, and there are lots of free guides online; however, there are other ways to take five. Watching a TV programme, playing a sport, chilling with friends, playing or listening to music, cooking are just some example of ways your teen can take down-time.
Getting the right amount of sleep each night provides the body with the time to rest, repair and rebuild, leading to a stronger immune system, reduced stress and improved emotional wellbeing. Sleep is the single most important contributor to health, so make sure your teen is getting enough; they probably need between eight and nine hours each night. Turning off screens half-an-hour before bed is proven to help encourage sleep, so a night-time bath, listening to music or a podcast, or reading a book are good activities before bed. Reducing lighting helps too.
3. GRATITUDE AND POSITIVE THINKING
People who express and experience gratitude tend to feel more optimistic, sleep better, are less stressed and generally feel happier about their lives. Help your teen get into the habit of noticing things to appreciate – whether it’s a kind word, a sunny day or a quiet moment. Encourage them to let people know when they feel grateful for something they’ve done by saying thank you and showing that they recognise kind actions and appreciate them.
Positive thinking relieves tension and optimism encourages positive outcomes. Help your teen reframe their point of view if they are dwelling on negativity to other positive mindsets. If they are struggling with having to do things now that they don’t enjoy (for example some school subjects) it might help to think of the long term benefits (getting qualifications to go on to do the job they want). Remind them of the mantra: “short term pain for long term gain”!
Maintaining good and healthy relationships can help build a sense of belonging and self-worth and improve mental and emotional wellbeing. Make sure your teen is taking time to nurture their friendships and family relationships, including extended family such as grandparents and uncles/aunts that aren’t living at home. Regular contact will not only help them feel connected, it will give them a broad range of people to talk to when they experience insecurity or disappointments.
5. BEING ACTIVE
Your teen should be getting plenty of exercise at school during the day, so the darker morning and evenings shouldn’t be the disincentive they could be to adults trying to do their exercise outside the office. A little activity every day is a great thing to burn off frustration, keep the blood flowing and improve sleep quality, so encourage a lunchtime walk if they do not have PE on certain days or if they don’t walk to or from school.
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Finally, don't forget, subscribe to our parent newsletter and receive all the latest tips, advice and support on how you can help your teenage child straight to your inbox.
Vanessa Green - Vanessa@theparentsguideto.co.uk