This blog post was written based on a panel our team was invited to speak at in Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, and listening to many parents' questions and concerns on how to increase balance in their children. Being a parent and teaching your kids and teens how to live a balanced life can be very challenging. To begin with, the word balance means an “even distribution” which sounds like a great idea. However, it’s a difficult concept to put into practice. Balancing family, work, exercise, sleep, personal self-care, eating, socializing, etc. seems at times like an impossible task, especially in the fast pace world we live in! At the same time, the lack of balance leads to stress and burn out which leaves us with the challenge of constantly working on getting there. Perhaps, that is balance, knowing that everything can’t be evenly distributed at all times and in perfect order but being aware when one of the important areas of your life needs attention and promptly addressing it!
When we are living in a constant state of imbalance, we are more prone to experience stress. During a stressful event the brain signals the release of stress hormones. These chemical substances trigger a series of responses that give the body extra energy to act: your blood-sugar levels rise, your heartbeat speeds up and blood pressure increases, your muscles tense for action and the blood supply is sent to the extremities to get you ready to act. As you can see, we are biologically wired to respond to perceived threats in an automatic way. Unfortunately, our innate stress response is not able to distinguish between a life-threatening event such as confronting a lion or a threat to our self-esteem such as being criticized by a teacher or parent. Not all the stressors are necessarily bad. Many events or stressors that are perceived as neutral or positive can cause stress. How we respond to stressors and imbalance varies from person to person but there are things that you can do to support yourself and your children in the constant peruse of stability and balance. Being a role model for your child and mentoring them as they learn how to create balance in their lives will make a difference. Remember: We need to walk the talk! Below are some tips to support you and them in the process:
Food and Meals
Organization of eating patterns are based on school schedules and after school activities
Planning meals and snacks ahead of time to avoid skipping meals or eating out all the time
Monitor use of energy drinks and caffeine
Encourage family meals and use the dining table for meals
Help them understand the why it’s important to eat proper and consistent meals
Discuss with your teen the long-term outcomes of disordered eating and eating disorders
Have a rule of no electronics while eating
Monitor and provide guidance on social media content especially around diets, training routines and body image and have conversations about the risks of social media accounts that encourage these topics
Be a role model by:
Eating at regular times
Having similar meals
Encourage balanced meals and moderation
Talk at the table about positive experiences
Avoid commenting about your/their or others body, weight, size, food choices, calories, diets, training routines, etc.
Communicate concerns to your teen and seek professional help as needed
Encourage movement and outdoor activities
Help your teen think about reasons for exercising – What do you like and not like about it? Do you exercise to avoid feeling guilty or manage other emotions such as anxiety? are they exercising for pleasure or social pressure? If so, encourage them to talk about it and help them reframe the reason why they exercise
Encourage your teen to LISTEN to their body and what it needs – Too often we get caught up in what we should do for physical activity, instead of thinking about what our body NEEDS. Pay attention to your body’s signals and stop moving if your body is fatigued or in pain.
FEEL your body when you’re moving – CONNECT to how it feels for your body to move and to feel strong in your body.
Tell them: Focus on YOU – Everyone has different limits and everyBODY is different. When we compare ourselves to others we often feel disempowered, rather than empowered through physical activity.
Challenge them and yourself to NOT be driven by numbers – When we focus on how long we have to run, how many reps to do, or “no pain, no gain”, we begin to ignore our body.
Be flexible with their schedule. School and sports can’t be everything! Teens need to socialize and relax as well. Encourage them to make time for all of it.
Encourage your teen to participate in a variety of activities
Help your teen identify movement that is ENJOYABLE such as walking with a friend or pet, swimming, yoga, gardening, etc.
Teens need 8-10 hrs of sleep.
Help your teen create and stick to a regular bedtime routine as much as possible. Establishing a consistent sleep routine is one of the most important ways to ensure a good night sleep.
Create a sleep friendly environment and try to avoid distractions (bright lights, loud noises, etc.)
Find a relaxing activity before going to bed
Avoid charging cellphones in their rooms and limit use of electronics
Phones and other devices should be put away one hour before bed time
Avoid having distressing conversations with your teen before bedtime
Practice breathing to reduce stress
Practice meditation and mindfulness with assistance of free phone apps like calm and head space
Journal: Writing about it helps to gain perspective
Take Breaks: Use alarm on phone as reminder to take and wrap up break time
Use weighted blanket and fidgety toys
Get Outside: sun and nature can increase a sense of peace and relaxation
Teach teens to be assertive and express differences, make requests, and say “NO” constructively. This will help them set healthy boundaries
Make sure that you keep a good sense of humor
Professional support can help them learn skills to manage stress
Learning and applying techniques that keep you grounded will take time and effort, especially because our teens are constantly bombarded by information and pressure from social media and school, keeping them balanced and teaching them how to identify and manage stress is key as we raise children that will be navigating a complex and competitive world. For more information about the ways our team can support your journey of parenting a well rounded teen, please contact us TODAY at 561. 600. 1424 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to answer your questions!
Resources for Help:
Davis, PhD., Martha, Robbins Eshelman, MSW, et al., Elizabeth. 2019. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications.
National Alliance For Eating Disorders https://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/
National Eating Disorders Association
Helpline: call or text (800) 931-2237