Nov 19, 2018

Dr. Gellner: Teens are tricky when it comes to helping them set healthy habits. I'll talk about helping your teen develop self-discipline for good sleep, eating, and exercise habits.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Teenage-hood is that odd time between being a little kid where parents micromanaged every part of your life, to being an adult where you're supposed to be responsible for all your own actions. Teens still need guidance on developing healthy habits.

Take eating, for example. Young children have their meals made for them, but when kids become teenagers, suddenly, they may have to fend for themselves. They should learn how to cook, so they don't always have to pop some frozen concoction in the microwave or hit up the closest fast-food joint. Many middle schools actually have classes where they start teaching cooking, and that's a great time to start getting your teen or pre-teen in the kitchen, so they can learn how to measure ingredients and learn kitchen safety. You can even sit back and have them cook for you one night.

And then, there's sleep. This one is made extra-hard because a teen's body wants to stay up late and sleep in. Unfortunately, that's not an option for kids, at least not during the school year. Teens need to be up and at school before their bodies really want them to be. Helping them establish good bedtime routines and keeping them on a pretty close schedule, regardless of if it's during the school year, on the weekend, or during the summer, will make this a lot easier. Also, don't have them rely on things like energy drinks to wake them up. Those may help in the short term, but then they will crash right in the middle of class, and that's not a good idea.

Finally, there's exercise. Teens don't have recess in the middle and high school anymore, and PE is taken out of schools more and more. Some kids only have it for a quarter now, rather than an entire school year. It's important to keep your kids active and stress the health benefits of exercise. It will help them with that sleep cycle issue. It will help with endorphins, those happy hormones which are often needed during the emotional roller-coaster of being a teen. And it will help them stay in shape. Childhood obesity is such a huge problem right now, and any little steps your teen can make to stay active will help make sure that they are at a healthy weight now and will set their ways to continue to be active as an adult.

While it can sometimes be hard for a parent to try to help their teen through this phase of growing up, especially how resistant some teens are to being told what to do, the best thing you can do to help your teen develop healthy habits is to be a good example and have them for yourself.

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