The Whole View, Episode 494: Supporting Teenagers with Lifestyle Changes

Welcome to episode 494 of The Whole View! This week, Dr. Sarah and Stacy break down the science behind adolescence development to determine what we can do to guide them through better choices and be more attentive parents.

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Listener Question

Hello Ladies,

I’ve been listening to your podcast for many years and have learned so much from both of you!  Incorporating what I have learned from your shows has made a huge difference in both my life and that of my family.  I can honestly say, it has been life-changing.  Today I’m writing with a question that I think is perfect for you two since it incorporates many topics you have previously discussed, but am looking for your thoughts  on these topics as they relate to teens. 

As a mom to a 12-yr old daughter about to enter her teen years (yikes) I was hoping you two would be able to share some insight and advice to help navigate all things teen-related!!  Between the 2 of you, I’m guessing you’ve probably seen it all.   It’s been a minute since I was a teen so it’s hard to remember how exciting (and challenging) this time can be, plus it seems like it would be so much harder these days with the impact of social media and all the other craziness going on in the world!

I want to do my best to support my daughter with all the up-coming transitions she will be going through and am looking for tips to help her (and me!) navigate all these changes.  Just getting a better understanding of what is going on in her mind and body is super helpful in terms of figuring out how to handle some of the challenges (drama!) while not taking it all personally.

Looking forward to hearing all the wisdom you have to share!

Thanks, Lisa

Key Takeaways

  • It’s helpful to look at adolescence as an important phase of neurological development, not a “rebellious phase,” raging hormones, a transition you have to get through, or a rite of passage. Thinking this way disempowers both the teen and the adults in their life. It’s a very important time for remodeling the brain. 
  • It’s natural to wonder if something your teen is going through is influenced by their peers or is just a phase. We also know the quickest way to get your kid to do something is by telling them not to do it. Whether their just exploring or truly finding themselves, the best thing we can do in any case is love and respect them as people.
  • We need to remove “preferred” when talking about pronouns because it’s not their preferred pronoun, it is their pronoun, and we need to respect their identity as it is. If you mess up, correct (either for yourself or someone else) and move on. You don’t have to understand what they’re going through to be a good and attentive ally!
  • Anxiety and mental unease of a maturing adolescent brain may increase psychological dysfunctions related to stress. Anxiety, depression, and drug use are often observed in this stage of human development. This is where teaching your kids mindfulness and other stress-relieving habits can come in helpful.
  • When it comes to getting your teen to make better choices, much of it is modeling healthier behavior yourself. Teenagers aren’t stupid- they can smell hypocrisy miles away! Dr. Sarah’s started teaching her daughters healthy eating habits early in life, and now (age 15 & 12), they report being proud that they eat healthily. They eat foods they like, don’t feel like they’re missing out, and don’t feel pressured to eat foods that make them feel bad (health-wise, not food-shame-wise).
  • Stacy started with her boys and Kiddo when they were older. She suggests making healthy meals the norm at home and going slow. Make versions of your normal foods that get progressively heavier, and add fruits and veggies as you go. It’s okay to have treats occasionally and make snacking on healthy foods easier/more accessible.
  • No amount of yelling, gutting, or forcing will work. Remember, it’s okay not to be perfect, so choose your battles and respect your teen’s autonomy. Sleep needs to be a family priority, so make sure you model that behavior. Talk with your teen about why sleep is important and impacts them, and help them brainstorm ways to make it a priority.
  • Teach your teen to prioritize stress management. See if they’d like to try mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, or nature walks. Spend time together as a family playing board games or doing puzzles. Pets and therapy are also great for reducing stress. Just be sure you’re modeling those behaviors!
  • The best thing you can do to support your adolescent is developing strong communication with them. You want them to feel comfortable asking your opinion when they’re experiencing a problem, sharing emotions, and feeling that they can come to you for anything.
  • When dealing with emotional outbursts, Stacy recommends looking into Collaborative Problem Solving. The most important thing is for your teen to feel safe with you, so be sure you aren’t picking up the negative emotions your teen/adolescence is putting down. Be sure you’re prioritizing your mental health as well- parenting an adolescent can be TOUGH.

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