Talking to Your Teen about Health

happy teensYour teen or tween may not have the perspective yet to recognize what they need to do or not to to get healthy and/or avoid falling into unhealthy habits. As a caring, involved parent, you want to provide guidance, but you don’t know what to say or how to get him or her to listen. Your child is probably listening to you less and less as he or she is turning more to the guidance of peers. Luckily, modeling has been shown to be a very powerful way of shaping your child’s behavior. They will do what you do more than they will do what you say.

It is tempting to share the wisdom of your age and life experience with your kids, but they won’t believe that it is wise and applicable to their lives unless they believe you understand them and their daily activities and interests. Before you say anything, make sure you are listening to and asking about their daily lives and the people with whom they surround themselves. Let them teach you a thing or two and they may be more open to what you want to teach them.

Keep the message positive. Teens who want to assert their independence, be respected, and believe they are nearly adults will reject negative messages even more than the average citizen. Telling them to “not” do something, only makes them want to do it more (and doesn’t it work the same way for you too?). Positive reinforcement is always a good way to encourage more of a behavior that you appreciate. The other danger of negativity is that teens and tweens are very self-conscious. Encourage self-esteem in your child by empowering him or her, providing information and support, and always using positive language.

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