What Motivates Teens to Make Healthy Choices
Teens are confronted with decisions every day. As they get older and these decisions become a little bigger, wondering if they’ll make the right choices can make any parent sick with worry. And while we can’t control our kids, we can guide them and work with their intrinsic motivation so that healthy choices are easier to make.
Tackling Greater Responsibilities
When kids are young, we use small lessons to teach responsibility. As they get into the tween and teen years, however, the concept of responsibility becomes more real — and much more serious. One of the best things we can do is keep the lines of communication open about some of these bigger responsibilities they face.
● Teen Driving - Even before they get behind the wheel, teens need to learn about safety and all the responsibilities that are involved with driving. Along with actually learning safe driving practices, teens should also learn about basic car maintenance and essentials like auto insurance. Parents should help teens learn car insurance 101 so they understand what costs are involved, what coverage includes, and the consequences of driving without insurance.
● Drugs and Alcohol - The topic of substance use is a conversation that should start early in a child’s life and continue throughout the teen years. Aha! Parenting recommends coaching children instead of controlling them. By the time teens are old enough to be tempted by peers to try drugs or alcohol, you want them to have the tools and motivation to make the right choice. When you coach your teen by asking them questions and truly listen in response, it prompts them to think for themselves about the consequences of drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, approaching the topic from a controlling perspective may just lead them to shut you out.
Along with the bigger issues, we also want our teens to make good choices in their everyday habits. The two biggest health habits we should encourage are eating right and staying active.
● Getting a Balanced Diet - Talking with teens about food choices can be tricky because you want them to eat healthily, but you don’t want the focus on diet to foster a negative body image. One idea is to make a family goal of eating a certain number of superfoods each day. These are foods that pack an extra punch when it comes to nutrition, which puts the focus on how they’re fueling your body, not on how they impact weight. It also helps to approach diet in terms of balance. Talk to your teens about how it's perfectly okay to have a Friday night pizza party or go out for ice cream on occasion.
However, there are some foods and drinks that kids and teens should learn to be more cautious about. With the popularity of coffee shop concoctions and energy drinks, many kids are getting way too much sugar and caffeine. One solution is to talk to them about choosing alternatives. For example, if hanging out with friends at a coffee shop is a social activity for your teen, suggest that she can swap out that latte for a decaf version or an herbal tea without missing out on the fun.
● Staying Active - Teens who are involved in team sports or activities like dance are probably getting all the fitness they need, but if you have a teen who isn’t into sports, you can still encourage them to find other ways of staying active. The blog Active Kids suggests helping your teen set fitness goals. Whether they like riding a bike, jogging, or simply walking the family dog around the block, setting (and reaching) a goal gives teens an amazing boost in self-confidence.
Part of our jobs as parents is to give teens good reasons for making healthy choices. That may be the joy of working toward a goal or the confidence that comes from giving their bodies good food for fuel. We can help give them that motivation and encouragement to (hopefully!) make healthy choices throughout all of life’s many stages.
For more from Catalyst Contributor, Jenny Wise, follow her directly at http://specialhomeeducator.com/