Recently we hosted a webinar on Restarting Young People’s Healthy Habits where we were joined by Gus Kraft and Trinidad Pavez, teen advisors from Cultures of Dignity and Dr. Adam Price, author of He’s Not Lazy.
Our teen panelists and Dr. Price shared so many insights; especially important as so many young people feel overwhelmed trying to catch up from the last two years. From managing schedules, homework, outside of school responsibilities, young people need to relearn healthy habits to build emotional wellness and resilience.
We learned so much about how teens define healthy and unhealthy habits, why they resist their parents advice, and how to reframe our conversations to be more productive and, frankly, less irritating.
Here are some of the insights we wanted to share:
Developing healthy habits is an emerging capacity that requires discipline.
And…Discipline is another emerging ability for teens and it’s based on three things; impulse control, delay of gratification and emotional regulation. So as much as we want learning healthy habits to go in one positive direction, that’s not how it usually goes.
It’s a two way street: Parents’ frustrations about their children developing healthy or responsible habits is understandable and at the same we need to appreciate the challenges young people have to develop these habits.
Gus shared how the “good habit” of getting his homework done can turn into a lot of pressure.
It’s just these weird feelings that’s hard to put into words. You know that feeling but you can’t even describe it. It’s sort of like waves over you. There’s just so much running around in your head. If their kid doesn’t know how to explain what they’re thinking about or what they’re feeling, then the parent feels like they’re the ones that are right in this situation cuz they know what they want sort of, they know what they expect to have–and that’s that the homework should be done. Not all teenagers show every emotion on their face, but if you pay close enough attention, then you’ll see the inner turmoil because it’s like, this paper has to be good. I can’t make any mistakes. This has to be at least this grade. Or it’s the habit of like, no, you know what? I have to revise it three or four times to make sure everything’s perfect.
So kids need to develop good habits and we need to understand why it’s hard to make that a reality and learn how to talk to them about all of this more effectively.
Here are some helpful takeaways for talking to young people about healthy habits:
- Ask questions before giving opinions. It can be too easy to fire off questions to our kids when we think they are behind or not doing something they’re supposed to. Instead, take a pause, and then ask questions before jumping to conclusions.
- Avoid asking “Why?” questions. For example, instead of saying, Why didn’t you (clean up your room, finish your homework, get any sleep last night? Ask questions that start with “How” or “Help me understand…
- Build emotional trust. It’s not a reflection of a bad relationship with your child or being a bad parent to recognize that you need to build emotional trust with your children. Our world is complex and so is adolescent development.
- Appreciate that young people have their own ideas, dreams, and desires. Developing healthy habits to support those ideas, dreams and desires is often the internal motivation they need.
Further reading and Resources:
- We Know Our Teens Are Suffering But Do We Know How We Can Help?
- Acknowledging the Pain and Celebrating the Small Moments of Joy
- Six ways to help kids transition back to school after distance learning
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Values Clarification apps:
- Habit Tracking apps:
- Understood – For learning and thinking differences
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline #1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or 1-800-SUICIDE
- Crisis Text Line- Text NAMI to 741-741
- The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Youth) #1-866-488-7386