By Brandi McCord, Youth First, Inc.
As parents, we always strive to provide for our kids and guide them to become successful adults. During adolescence, the brain grows at a rapid rate and continues to mature until the age of 25. In that time, there are factors that can help brain growth and others that can hinder development.
Let’s dive into some steps we can take as parents to support our teens’ healthy brain development.
- Build a balanced home life. Just like outside environmental factors, the home environment can highly affect a teen’s well-being. As parents, we should be loving and supportive to our kids. This includes providing rules and instilling moral behaviors.
- Provide healthy experiences. Getting teens involved with a range of activities, hobbies, and experiences can also positively impact brain development. This could include suggesting your teen try out a new sport, having them create some artwork, or even encouraging them to join a club at school.
- Establish good sleep habits. Did you know that teens need more sleep than children and adults? Yes, you heard that right. Melatonin levels increase later in the night and drop early in the morning for teens. This explains why teens want to stay up late and then struggle to get up out of bed the next morning. Teens need an average of 9-10 hours of sleep a night. Try and stick with a routine to help unwind from the day. Taking electronics, such as the cell phone, out of their room can also help your teen get more sleep. They may not be happy about it, but just remember it is to help them grow!
- Encourage an active lifestyle. Most of us know that exercise provides many benefits and additional energy! You can use physical activity to bond with your teen by taking a family walk or helping them find physical hobbies they enjoy.
- Offer healthy options. Brains need nourishment from a healthy, balanced diet. Try to help your teen avoid junk food and increase their intake of healthy foods like fruits and veggies. These nutrients help the brain thrive and develop.
- Develop a plan to manage stress. When your brain gets stressed, it does not develop appropriately. Work with your teen on developing a stress plan to keep the stress levels at a minimum. It’s helpful to find a plan that works for you too! Relaxation techniques such as yoga and mindfulness, along with healthy outlets like reading and writing can help reduce stress levels.
- Protect the brain from injury. Safety and protection are key for a brain to grow and mature. Encourage helmet safety and the use of seatbelt, along with discouraging use of harmful substances (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Teens are always looking for guidance and will look to you to help them. This is a great opportunity to model healthy behaviors.