In this fast-paced world, adolescents are busier than ever, which can easily become overwhelming for them. I often find parents asking, “How can I help?” Consider the following tips as you help your child manage time, achieve balance and ultimately prepare for adulthood.
1. Give your children and adolescents your most important commodity – time
Buying your children and adolescents more things – more toys, electronics or clothes – isn’t necessarily what they want or need. Instead, make them feel valued by giving them your time and attention. If you look them in the eyes and listen to what they’re saying, this will help show them they’re important to you. You should make your best attempt to prioritize quality time with your children.
2. Read to children
According to functional MRI studies, the section of a child’s brain responsible for creativity tends to become more activated when they’re read to, as opposed to watching a movie. Reading to your children can also show them how you assign value to active activities rather than just passive activities.
3. Take the TV out of the bedroom
Teenagers should be getting at least eight or nine hours of sleep at night, which is hard to accomplish with screen time before bed. It’s a hard thing to do, and you’ll probably receive pushback, but you need to do it. Let your kid stomp their feet, but you (as a caregiver) should understand you’re doing what’s best for them, and they’ll learn to respect that.
4. Limit phone exposure
Today, the average teenager will spend up to seven hours each day texting and using social media, not to mention another two hours in front of TV. They also spend up to 17 hours sleeping, going to school and participating in extracurricular activities or sports. Add it up – there simply isn’t enough time in the day for them, so they end up multitasking. The internet is an escape from reality, which can harm children growing up because life isn’t always how it’s portrayed online. Social media is appropriate, but activity should be monitored. I would also consider this rule for your household: no cell phones in grade school, no smart phones in middle school.
5. Stick to your commitments
When you schedule time to be with your children, make sure you stick to your commitments. When you’re with them, don’t pull out your phone or they’ll end up doing the same thing to you. Show them their time is just as valuable to you as your time should be to them.
6. Don’t work on vacation
Let’s face it – the idea that people can multitask while enjoying personal or family time is a fantasy. Don’t give your children the impression work is more important to you than they are. They could end up mimicking your behavior later down the road, so be a good role model when it comes to work-life balance. Be present in the moment with your children.
7. Give them responsibility
Assign chores for your children and adolescents – it’ll teach them responsibility. Encourage them to get a job to help build their resume and teach them valuable life lessons. Getting a driver’s license can be a first step into adulthood for most teenagers, yet over 20 percent of high school seniors don’t have one. Teenagers are comfortable being sheltered, so push them out of their comfort zone and get them on the road to adulthood.
8. Take a break when needed
We often admire our adolescents for juggling academics, sports, extracurricular activities and more, but pressure can easily build when they’re facing round-the-clock demands. Whether you’re setting up your child to become a basketball star or academic decathlon whiz, don’t let them get worn out.
9. Let them deal with loss
Allowing your child to believe they will always win is setting them up for failure. That’s just not the way life works. They need to eventually learn how to deal with bad news by themselves, because they can’t run to Mom or Dad every time something doesn’t work out in their favor. Adolescents should become familiar with failure and learn how to bounce back from it in order to build resiliency.
10. Remember balance is everything
There’s nothing wrong with holding high expectations for your children, but the expectations themselves shouldn’t define them and their worth. The expectations should match their interests and talents, too. For example, Mom and Dad may want their daughter to become a ballerina, but maybe she actually wants to play softball. Parents and caregivers should help their children find the balance between academics, extracurricular activities, friendships and family time.