By Rachel Haug, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.
Adolescence represents a critical period of self-exploration. The teen years are when many factors contributing to lifelong well-being are developed. As a parent, it is important to be aware of what is affecting your child’s well-being and know how to direct them to a positive sense of purpose and self-respect.
Well-being refers to a person’s state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy. A person’s well-being shapes their quality of life; it is where they find value and what they ultimately see as good. In adolescence, happiness is often learned and can be linked to three key categories: connecting with others, getting active, and giving back. As a parent, you can play an active role in your child’s well-being by encouraging them to take action in each of the following categories.
Adolescents will always seek connection on some level, no matter how big or small in scale, and the way they connect with others influences their sense of well-being. It is vitally important for our children to be mindful of the types of connections they are making. “We become like the people we surround ourselves with” is a quote I often use with students to help them think about the influence their friendships have on their lives.
You can also play a part in your child’s connection with others through having conversations about the importance of positive connections and modeling what it looks like to have healthy relationships with others.
Our bodies are designed to move and move they must! Studies suggest that moderate exercise is not just good for the body but improves mental health as well. Researchers concluded that 45 minutes of exercise a week could show signs of mental health improvements. The activities that showed the most substantial improvements in adolescents were team sports, cycling and aerobics, or other gym activities. You can help your child get active by encouraging them to join a sports team or after school program or starting a running or exercise club with their friends. This could promote mental wellness and assist them in forming more positive connections with others.
We want our children to cultivate a drive to contribute to their community. Beyond that, when adolescents are raised to care about giving, they are also more likely to have fulfilling lives. There are opportunities in every community to serve. Many opportunities to give back exist in daily life and are not just connected to formal programs. Your adolescent’s school may also be a great place to start. Examples include tutoring students in need or joining a club to improve the school environment.
As we raise our adolescents to improve the world, we will build stronger communities where people care for and about each other. Our children in turn develop a more positive sense of well-being and their opportunities to make impactful change, both personally and among others, are endless.