Make sleep a priority
Teenagers need a minimum of 8 hours up to about 10 hrs a night, with most research favouring over 9 hours. This is critical to their ability to cope, learn and manage stress. Sleep helps with weight management, stress and anxiety, ability to cope, ability to learn, ability to concentrate. Don’t laugh as there are ways to get your kids to agree to this, but electronics in bedrooms has a negative impact on sleep cycles. There is no research that I can find anywhere that says ‘watching tv or playing Xbox or watching you tube videos’ helps you sleep. As a teenager sleep is even more important, the mental capacity taken up from learning, socially interacting and growing is huge and yet many are still playing on games, interacting after midnight.
Make time for play
We often think play is for young children but it’s necessary for everyone. Adults included. It’s a great way to release stress, let the mind wander and takes the focus off the pressure that is all around them. This could be going for a bike ride, trampolining, going for a walk up the hills, wrestling, hitting a bat or ball, dancing, having a knock about in the park. Ideally play should be enjoyable and not competitive. It should be a fun safe haven and freedom for the mind. Believe it or not, play is a form of mindfulness. People assume mindfulness has to be quiet and still, but it’s focussing your attention on something, stepping away from social media, outside influences and pressure.
Look at the schedule
All children and adults need some downtime to switch off and not be thinking of the next thing to do, or the next place to go. Write down their weekly schedule, including school, extra curricular activities, social commitments and homework. Make sure there are one or two nights a week where there is time for your child to switch off for your child and a good section of hours at the weekend that are free of any commitment. Release the pressure of go go go. An easy way to tell if your schedule is too full is to see how often you all sit down to eat together at the table, to talk and just to spend time together? If your meals tend to be on the hoof, out and about, in the car, grabbing to go then that is a pretty safe bet that your life or your child’s life doesn’t have enough downtime.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Manage your own stress and lead by example
It is very difficult for children to stay calm in a sea of panic. If parents are running around constantly without any breaks or always revving at a high speed, this rubs off on the children. Not only will they be in a state of stress but if the parents don’t demonstrate that it’s ok to take breaks, or demonstrate ways to relax and cope then how is your child to learn? Try to figure out ways for you to manage your stress, you could even do it together. Perhaps agree on points above that you could do together or where you both commit to working on. All these points for children are just as valid for adults, so before telling children, why not assess your own state and then reflect what you could do differently which could not only improve your life but theirs too.
Prepare your child to deal with mistakes
Many children feel the need to be perfect and to compare themselves to others, social media, grades and tests and expectations of parents. Nobody is supposed to know everything, or how to do everything correctly. It’s truly important that your child learns how to overcome a bad decision and to learn from it. Everyone messes up, but the importance is learning from mistakes or poor choices and to be able to dust yourself down and move forwards. You don’t have to condone or condemn the original behaviour but you can appreciate and encourage the value of the lesson.
Feeding your body and brain, a lack of vitamins, minerals and nutrients puts your body under unnecessary pressure. Children and teenager’s bodies are growing and changing, muscles, bones, brains, hair, skin, organs, not to mention the hormones, these have their own influence on moods and emotions. By keeping the diet as helpful as possible it helps to keep them on an even keel. Try to make sure the meals and snacks that you do have influence over are full of nourishing and nutritious ingredients. The sugar rollercoaster can create havoc with mood swings, attention span, concentration and sleep quality. The chemicals, preservatives and additives in processed food all require more attention from the body when it is required elsewhere. I’m not saying to cut out any foods, I would just encourage you to promote helpful eating whenever possible.
One of the biggest factors to help with stress and depression, it releases endorphins, makes us feel good, is great for our health, the benefits for adults and children are too many to mention. The main point is that it has to be enjoyable, whether it be a walk, run, gym classes, team sports, tennis or dancing, climbing, trampolining. It doesn’t matter if it makes someone feel good, gets their heart rate up and breaks a sweat.
I hope this has helped and/or given you some ideas, even if it’s just to start a conversation with your child. Talking and communication is key, give them the space to talk. Remember just because it seems trivial to you doesn’t mean that their feelings aren’t valid. Our worlds are so full of stimuli and items that require our attention, children need support and time to still be children, to be able to explore their feelings and to be heard and understood. (Can someone remind me of this when my children are teenagers please?)
If you would like some coaching help to implement these pointers or to work through stress or your own anxieties, perhaps you feel like your child would benefit by talking and working through their issues with a neutral professional, perhaps to find healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety, to cope with the events that life throws at them, or to overcome issues to enable them to move forwards in a happier way then please contact me to book sessions for you or your child. I am DBS checked, fully qualified NLP Master Practitioner and coach, hypnotherapist, and Eft. I am based in Knowle, Solihull.