Health

Healthiest Habit for Your Teen

This can help kids dodge depression, avoid risky behaviors, and build stronger family bonds

It can be tough to pull teens away from their phones or their friends at any time of year. But this week especially, when it’s Christmas break, they may be checking out new apps or games and Snapchatting their friends about how bored they are at home.

Make them set the electronics aside — so they can spend some time with you. Your teens will be better for it.

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While teens often seem to want little to do with their parents at this point in their lives, studies show that a larger parental presence actually creates health benefits for teens. It can lower their levels of depression and risky behaviors. And you don’t have to do much. Just being present helps.

“That’s a very important thing for parents to remember,” said Dr. Rosemary Stein, a pediatrician in Burlington, North Carolina. “Kids’ brains are not [fully] developed yet. The more time they spend with adults who are good, moral, faith-based adults who are themselves making good decisions, the more those people will form their [child’s] decision-making trends.”

“Create a dialogue in which you can interject your experiences as a kid or what you think — it may seem forced, but it’s vital,” said one pediatrician.

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While most quality time together is spent away from electronics, there are some healthy ways of hanging out on the couch, said Stein.

“It’s one thing to sit down and watch a movie together and talk about that movie. And another thing to be constantly watching TV with no conversation or dialogue about how when you were 12, you went through some similar things. If that isn’t happening, then the TV has no place,” she said. “There needs to be a balance.”

Stein said even sitting down together for five minutes every morning over breakfast, sharing some stories or thoughts, and sending your child off on his or her day with a prayer makes a big difference in the child’s outlook and ultimately, his or her health.

Related: How to Cure Instant Gratification Syndrome

“Create a dialogue in which you can interject your experiences as a kid or what you think — it may seem forced, but it’s so vital. The more you don’t do that, the more the gap gets bigger and bigger and you become irrelevant to your child,” said Stein.

“Your children were given to you to raise and model yourself for them. If you think otherwise, you’re wrong. Those times and the effort that you make in constantly telling them, ‘These are the things that happened to me,’ or ‘These are the things I’m trying to accomplish in you’ — you’ll be further along toward your goal of building that stronger person.”

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